The three-storied Rafiqa Building in New Kantwadi area, Bandra (W), initially just needed some repairs after a structural audit revealed some faults. However, this was allegedly botched up by a private contractor and the condition of the building got worse. The building, which comes under H-west ward, now falls in the BMC’s C1 category (extremely dangerous) list. This has forced most residents to vacate the structure.
Located in a narrow and congested bylane, residents of the building claim that after the structural audit was carried out, a contractor had approached them to conduct repairs. He did work on the terrace that had a cascading effect on the building’s structure. Currently, the building is covered with bamboo scaffolding and tarpaulin sheets to prevent further damages and also a collapse.
What residents say:
“The contractor had asked residents to pool in lakhs of rupees to carry out repairs. He carried out some work on the terrace, which eventually worsened the leakage situation. A number of cracks developed due to this. While the contractor kept asking for money, he was clueless on how much money was spent till now. We estimate it was around Rs 15 lakh,” said Sunita Pawar, a resident of the building.
While almost everyone has vacated the place, they have left their belongings in the house, claiming that the relocation is only temporary and they would return after the monsoons. A few flats on the ground floor are still occupied by residents, who seem barely affected by the state of the building.
What officials say:
Assistant municipal commissioner and in-charge of H-west ward, Vinayak Vispute, said that even after issuing notices, the civic officials are unable to take any action if the residents themselves claim that they will take responsibility if the structure collapses. “We have sent notices, disconnected electricity and water connections, but in vain. The residents have managed to to get it back,” said Vispute.
The contractor involved had allegedly hired personal bodyguards to protect him from the residents’ wrath and they claimed that he had even bribed civic officials and the police. “When the contractor fled with our money and stopped returning our calls, we approached a builder for redevelopment. He has been helping us get permissions and clearance, but because of a few residents, it is being delayed,” said another resident Rukhsana Patel.
Meanwhile Bandra corporator Asif Zakaria said that the building and many others are stuck due to internal conflicts between residents and the developer, which puts a stop on redevelopment. “In a bid to ease the process of approaching the civic authorities, all parties involved, right from the tenant to the landlord and developer, must be interested. If anyone disagrees then the process comes to a halt,” Zakaria said.