Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Outlook.com

Thereby Hangs A Storey

These Mumbaikars would rather fall with their buildings than be evicted and be condemned to permanent homelessness

Thereby Hangs A Storey
Thereby Hangs A Storey Atul Loke

Jariwala Building at Mahim and Botawala Chawl at Mazgaon are two symbols of a homelessness peculiar to Mumbai. Two reminders of faulty housing policies, two stories of resistance to official force. Two buildings of nearly 100-year vintage, ground-plus-two-storey structures with balustrade balconies, wooden pillars, old wooden beams and stone flooring, now the touchstones of a government policy that will determine the fate of nearly 19,500 similarly dilapidated buildings across Mumbai. Jariwala and Botawala house 237 families—about 1,200 residents—who face an uncertain address, unsure future, carry an understandable angst against officials and an unbelievable stubbornness in moving to safer structures. For the first time ever, legal tenants of a building are sought to be evicted en masse, with use of force.

The Maharashtra government through the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) will similarly evict residents from 109 "very dangerous buildings" across the old part of the city by end of September, the cost of rebuilding which would be some Rs 600 crore. Officials do not have a picture of the exact numbers involved but they say it may be "around a lakh or little over that". It will be the largest peacetime evacuation ever, the first time that force and police presence is used to ensure that people move. The idea is that MHADA or a joint venture between itself and private builders will redevelop the crumbling structures with upgraded infrastructure so that tottering buildings in South Mumbai become structurally safe for another century. It's easier said than done, if Jariwala and Botawala are anything to go by.

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