What Makes 80 Families Live in Partly Collapsed Building in Mumbai

Why do 80 families choose to risk their lives every day by staying in a partly-collapsed building? Residents explain

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(This piece was originally published on 25 July 2017, and is being republished from The Quint’s archives after a building collapse in Mumbai’s Dongri on 16 July 2019.)

Video Editor: Veeru Mohan

One look at the 125-year-old Loliwala building in Mumbai’s Nagpada area would be enough to notice that the building is extremely dilapidated. In fact, it is partially collapsed. But despite its condition, over 80 families continue to live here, risking their lives every day.

Why do they refuse to flee the crumbling three-storey building? Financial constraint is the most pressing concern.

“In 2010, we gave our consent to Mercury Developers to redevelop the building. Finally, in 2013, they got the No Objection Certificate (NOC), but they did nothing. The building’s condition had become so dilapidated that we feared it would collapse anytime. We complained against him to MHADA and since May, we are waiting for MHADA to cancel the NOC. Once it’s cancelled, we can rebuild our homes.”
Shavez Sayed, resident at Loliwala building
Residents of the Loliwala building now seek temporary homes from MHADA.
Residents of the Loliwala building now seek temporary homes from MHADA.
(Photo: The Quint/Ankita Sinha)

The residents, after running from pillar to post, say Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) finally offered to shift them to Sion temporarily, about 10 kms away from their present residence. They would be put up at Sion till their building is redeveloped. However, with no indication of the date, location and specifics of their new home, residents are worried.

“I cannot forget the day a portion of our building collapsed. People in the building in front of us started screaming that it’s collapsing. We ran outside and saw that an entire pillar had broken.”
Zohar Ratlamwala, resident at Loliwala building

The collapse affected 24 flats. Families living in the affected portion of the building became homeless overnight. Abdul Ghani Shaikh, 75, was one such resident.

Forced to move out of his home, that now lies crumbled, Shaikh and his family shifted to the terrace. Living in a makeshift shelter made out of tarpaulin sheets, with space for only precious belongings, Shaikh and 24 other families have no choice but to eat, sleep and live on the terrace. They have been living this way for over three weeks now.

Nearly 24 families live on the open terrace of the building.
Nearly 24 families live on the open terrace of the building.
(Photo: The Quint/Ankita Sinha)
“For now, we are staying outside. We sleep on the terrace at night. I bring my wife inside in the morning where she sleeps. We stay here throughout the day. We don’t have an address.”
Abdul Ghani Shaikh, resident at Loliwala building

Moving out, however, isn’t an option.

“You need to have the income, the money to move somewhere else and start fresh. We don’t have the money to pay rent in another place. Where will we get Rs 10,000- Rs 20,000 each month for rent?” added Shahana Sayed, another resident who is now homeless.

Even the residents who have a roof over their heads for now, cannot help but fear for their lives. The cracks on their living room and bedroom walls serve as a grim reminder that their building is unstable.

Shahana Sayed’s living room wall suffered a huge crack due to the collapse.
Shahana Sayed’s living room wall suffered a huge crack due to the collapse.
(Photo: The Quint/Ankita Sinha)
“During the day, we stay on the terrace or come home, but we can’t stay inside our houses during the night. What if anything happens at night? We will be asleep then and we’ll be caught unaware.”
Amina Khan, resident at Loliwala building

With the redevelopment of their building stuck in a limbo and no alternatives in the picture for now, daily life is a fight for survival for the residents of Nagpada’s Loliwala building.

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