No one owns the fallen building in Mumbai

No one owns the fallen building in Mumbai

Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building in Mumbai. Reuters photo

Amid the tragic building collapse that killed twelve people in Mumbai, confusion prevailed over the exact ownership of the part of the Kesarbai Building that caved in on Tuesday. There were also issues among the tenants and trustees, and the building also seems to be illegal.

In Mumbai, there are 499 buildings declared dilapidated and dangerous by the BMC and 24 by MHADA. The name of the century-old building does not figure in the list of either BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) or Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).

Late in the evening, MHADA said that the building does not come in its jurisdiction.
“Media reports said that the building 25/C named Kesarbai Building under MHADA has collapsed. However, the building had been evacuated in 2018 and still stands as it is. The collapsed part is an illegal structure on the backside of the Kesarbai Building. Since it is not a cessed (taxed, legal) structure, it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the MHADA,” said the press release.

Redevelopment issues

The building was proposed for redevelopment but the developer had issues with the owners/trust.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis admitted that MHADA has issued orders of redevelopment, and why it was not carried out will be looked into.

"The information that I gathered is that the building was due for redevelopment. A developer was appointed. Why it was not done, we would look into. Whether it was because of the developer or officials," MHADA chairman Uday Samant said.

"The BMC and MHADA are passing the buck like each time," said RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh, who had procured several documents under RTI.

On the other hand, the Mumbai Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board (MBRRB) said it had nothing to do with the building. "It is not in our jurisdiction," MBRRB chairman Vinod Ghosalkar said.

Meanwhile, a two-year-old correspondence between BMC and MHADA came to light, suggesting that the building was with the latter.

Tenants refuse to vacate

Way back in 2014, a Bombay High Court division bench comprising Justice A V Mohta and Justice A A Sayed had directed the BMC to identify all dilapidated and dangerous buildings in Mumbai and put up the list on its website.

Shaikh said that on July 2, through his NGO Adhikar Foundation, he had written to municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi to take immediate steps to demolish the 499 ‘dangerous’ buildings in the city. Exactly a fortnight later, Kesarbai Building came down crashing.

Though the residents of another wing of the building said that they had given consent to the trust for redevelopment, some occupants refused to vacate the buildings. "This is a big issue, people refuse to vacate so that redevelopment work could be undertaken. The transit camps are located far way places like Borivli and Mahul," said Mumbai MLA Amin Patel.

"We will probe the issue and necessary action will be taken," said Mumbai Mayor Prof Vishwanath Mahadeshwar.

It was like an earthquake, says eyewitness

There was a sudden rattling noise and then a cloud of dust, say locals who saw a portion of Kesarbai Building coming down.

"It was rattling noise, people thought it is an earthquake. The people from the neighbourhood rushed out of their houses," says Aijaz Ahmed Ansari, a media professional who stays in the nearby locality.

"The building came down in just a few seconds," said Dinesh Sadh, another local resident. "It was like a usual day, everything was normal... suddenly the structure came with a thud and there was dust," said Mohammed Nizam. "It was difficult to understand as to what exactly had happened... it took some time for us to realise," he said.

Heart-rending scenes were witnessed with relatives of the residents of the ill-fated structure started coming in.

Teenaged girl rescued in a daring act

A girl, aged between 15-16, was rescued in a daring operation. "She was trapped critically under the debris with a very heavy iron beam, wooden door and a gas cylinder," rescue officials said.

After cutting through the iron beams, spreading the wooden planks and removing the debris, the rescuers reached her. Hydraulic cutters and power tools were used and the operations lasted for over two hours, during which she was provided water.