Bhendi Bazaar Residents Recount Horror, yet Choose to Stay On
Over 20 killed in a building collapse at Mumbai’s busy Bhendi Bazaar, who will take responsibility?
A loud bang, a cloud of dust and a second later, residents of Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar area were left shell-shocked as a building collapsed right before their eyes. At about 8:30 in the morning on 31 August, Arsiwala building, situated in Maulana Shaukat Ali road, caved in, leaving over 30 people trapped under debris. At least 22 people lost their lives and many are still trapped underneath the rubble.
Salman Rizvi, a resident of Nagpada waited next to the collapse site. Having seen the bodies of his 14-year-old niece and 18-year-old nephew being pulled out of the rubble, Salman waited anxiously for any news on his brother and sister-in-law, who were at home with their children at the time.
My brother, his wife and their two children lived on the second floor of the building. As soon as I found out, at about 8:30 am, that the building had collapsed, I ran to the spot. Out of the six bodies that have been pulled out so far, two of them belong to my brother’s children. No word on my brother and his wife yet.Salman Rizvi, family member of building collapse victims
Mustafa Gangerdiwal, 25, also held his breath as he awaited information about his cousin’s family, most of whom were still trapped.
“My cousin, his daughter and father are still trapped inside. His mother and wife were rescued, but his wife was declared dead at JJ Hospital. There’s no sign of the ones still trapped inside. I had spoken to them just yesterday” said a shocked Mustafa.
A Narrow Escape
Some, however, had a narrow escape. The building which had about six families living in it, also housed a nursery and a sweet-meat shop. About 50 children were supposed to reach the play-school at 9 am, barely 30 minutes after the incident.
65-year-old Mohd Sharif Qureshi owns two workshops in the building that were locked at the time of the collapse. Despite losing equipment worth lakhs of rupees, Mohd Sharif Qureshi is just thankful that he wasn’t in his workshop at the time.
We own the two workshops that were in this building for over 80 years. The building itself is over 90-years-old. My entire floor just crumbled to dust. Only once the area is cleared, will I be able to inspect if I have anything left behind.Mohd Mustafa Qureshi, workshop owner at the collapsed building
MHADA had Declared the Building to be Unsafe
Bhendi Bazaar, which is home to over 20,000 people, consists of over 200 dilapidated buildings. With a large-scale cluster redevelopment project on the cards for the old buildings in the area, Arsiwala building was a part of the cluster redevelopment project undertaken by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust.
Due to the extremely dilapidated condition of the building, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) had declared the building to be unsafe, and had served a notice to residents in 2011. But neighbours say that while about six families moved out of the building soon after to transit camps, seven other families stayed on.
The residents of the 117-years-old Husaini building (CS NO 4329) in Bhendi Bazaar collapsed at 8.30 am today. This ground+6 building housed a total of 13 tenants which included 12 residential and 1 commercial. Out of these, the trust had already shifted 7 families in 2013-14. MHADA notices dated 28-03-2011 and 20-05-2011 declaring the building dilapidated were issued along with the offer of transit accommodation to the remaining tenants and occupants.Press statement by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust
Redevelopment on the Cards?
After witnessing the collapse of Arsiwala building, that was about 117-years-old, residents living in dilapidated buildings in surrounding areas of Bhendi Bazaar are now worried. Many are still unsure about their homes going in for redevelopment. Some, are refusing to move out till they receive concrete assurance of receiving their new homes on time and a decent shelter for their families till the redevelopment project is completed.
52-year-old Shaheed Khan lives in a century old building, barely 500 metres from the collapse site. Despite receiving offers from many developers who promised the residents of Shaheed’s building a new apartment in three years’ time, they are still not convinced. The residents of Shaheed’s ‘Classic Apartment’ are forced to choose their home over their safety.
Most buildings around mine are dilapidated and lying in that condition for over 10 years, despite signing redevelopment contracts with builders. The building next to ours has been undergoing redevelopment for over 22 years, but the builder has still not handed it over to the residents. When they question the builder, he says ‘go ahead and file a complaint against me’. People like us end up becoming homeless.Shaheed Khan, resident at Bhendi Bazaar
Fareeda Iqbal Mansoori, a resident of Nagpada, which is located barely 10 minutes from the collapse site, lives in a building constructed around 1990. With its condition deteriorating over the last five years, Fareeda and the other residents of her building have been considering redevelopment, but have always been hesitant to sign the dotted line.
“Builders call us and ask us to sign up for redevelopment, telling us that we will get a 300 sq ft area and some rent, but if we ask them to first put us up somewhere and give us a home, they never agree. Then they scare us by telling us that our construction is illegal”said Fareeda.
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