Mumbai: Tenants of the 66 colonies constructed by the Mumbai Building Repairs and Redevelopment Board (MBRRB) under the Prime Minister's Grant Programme (PMGP) in the 80s are a worried lot. Every day, they pray that no major mishap occurs, given the dilapidated state of their buildings.
These colonies are located in Umarkhadi at Dongri, Currey Road, Lalbaug and Mazgaon, among others. Most of these houses have an area of 270 sq ft. Reportedly, in 2019, the MBRRB had proposed the redevelopment of six buildings on a pilot basis but till date, no spadework has begun.
Shantaram Khandekar, 66, a retired government employee and a resident of the first PMGP building, Lalbaug Vrundavan building no. 2, told The Free Press Journal, "Our building is 31 years old and already beyond repair, since MHADA did not carry out regular maintenance of buildings under PMGP. Both the terrace and the ground water tanks have leaks. Water pours in from pillars and during the monsoon the situation becomes even more disastrous." As a temporary measure, the MHADA should undertake proper repairs until it takes over the redevelopment, he felt.
Another aggrieved tenant of Mazgaon, Kishore Vagre from the Shri Suryakund Mahapurush Cooperative Housing Society, also built under the PMGP, expressed ire over the shoddy repairs carried out by MHADA. He said, "My flat is on the top floor of the building. The ceiling slab, weighing around 10 kg, collapsed on Wednesday, as water seeps in from the terrace. Fortunately, no one from my family was injured. We cannot resolve the electricity issue, for fear of electrocution. We are living in another flat, temporarily. My only demand is for a shed over the terrace so that the rain does not directly fall on the terrace."
Other tenants have similar stories of suffering. Says Ajay Nikam, "In my house, the ceiling has turned into a cascading waterfall. The place is unfit to live in but financial constraints leave us with no choice." Leaky ceilings are an issue for most of residents on the top floors of these buildings.
Anant Thakur, secretary of this building said, that there are a total of 328 families in this eight-wing colony. "We have been regularly following up with repair board officials for a solution but no concrete step has been taken by officials so far. I only hope the government considers the grievances of all residents, as these are old buildings and timely intervention will prevent a major tragedy from taking place."
The PMGP colonies are owned by the MBRRB, an undertaking of the MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority). Therefore, tenants cannot undertake redevelopment of these buildings. They would have to first buy the land or find a developer willing to invest in redevelopment and also take care of the payment for availing land ownership. Thakur said, "The market price of land in Mumbai is too high and middle-income group families reside in these buildings. Raising funds to purchase land from the government is not financially viable for anyone."
Vinod Ghosalkar, the chairman of the MBRRB, when questioned about the proposed redevelopment, said, "Once the Covid situation is settled, I will take up the issue on priority. However, even today, I am regularly asking the administrators to expedite the process. Though we have obtained in-principle approval from the state government for the redevelopment of PMGP colonies, tenants must be provided alternative accommodation until the work is completed. We have transit houses in Borivli while these buildings are in city limits. So many may resist moving out so far, claiming that their children's schools, colleges are in the current vicinity. To avoid any opposition to the project, all aspects have to be we taken care of, first."
Further, informed Ghosalkar, were the board, for instance, to undertake the construction of a 22-floor tower, accommodating 500 tenants, it will cost Rs 500 crore at the current market price. For a government-run board, raising such a huge amount will be a tall order. However, as was initially planned, the board will construct rehab houses for original tenants and also will construct saleable houses, which will be sold via lottery to recover the project cost, he said.