Ghatkopar Building Collapse: One Year on, Residents Still Homeless

“Despite ‘owning’ a house we don’t actually have one,” say survivors of the Ghatkopar building collapse. 

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On 25 July 2017, fear and panic gripped the residents of Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area as a four-storey building came crashing down, killing 17 people. One year on, The Quint spoke to the residents of the ‘Siddhi Sai’ building who are still mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Forty-year-old Dharmishta Shah still has nightmares from the day she lost her oldest daughter and mother-in-law.

“I was neck deep in rubble, you could just see my face. Our neighbours and everyone came and pulled me out. Two hours later, my mother-in-law was pulled out. She was taken to the hospital. I was just waiting for my daughter to be rescued. She was finally pulled out at about 8 pm. Her lifeless body was pulled out.”
Dharmishta Shah, former resident 

Fifty-six-year-old Rajesh Doshi considers himself lucky to have survived the collapse despite being buried under debris for almost 14 hours. Rajesh was rescued only after he managed to make a phone call to his son from under the rubble, about seven hours after the collapse. Multiple surgeries and intense physiotherapy later, Rajesh can now stand on his feet.

“When they pulled me out of the rubble after 14 hours, I finally felt fresh air and got water. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom for 14 hours. I was just lying on one side for that long. I’m still not able to walk because of a nerve damage on one of my legs.”
Rajesh Doshi, former resident 
Rajesh Doshi has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy to recover sensation on his right leg.
Rajesh Doshi has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy to recover sensation on his right leg.
(Photo courtesy: The Quint)

Sunil Shitap, a Shiv Sena worker, who was booked as the main culprit in the incident, is still in jail. His plea for bail has been rejected already. Shitap has been charged with culpable homicide after investigators found that he carried out unauthorised renovation work on the ground floor apartments of the building. Shitap had allegedly removed most of the load-bearing internal walls of a portion of the building that caused the building to collapse.

“When I walked around the ground floor on 21st July, they had removed all the pillars which formed the foundation of the building on the ground floor. It looked like a hall. There were just two pillars and the shutter was pulled. I asked them, what are you doing? The building will collapse. Shitap had said, I can do whatever I want inside my flats. Other residents have no say on this.”
Lalchand Ramchandani, former resident 

“He shouldn’t receive bail. So many people have died and many are suffering because of one person’s mistake,” added Dharmishta.

The plot where the Sai Siddhi building once stood, still lies vacant today bearing testimony to the homes and lives that were lost. Despite many attempts, residents haven’t been able to rebuild their homes.

The plot where the building stood is still empty.
The plot where the building stood is still empty.
(Photo Courtesy: The Quint)
“I have shifted to my brother-in-law’s place which is just behind this plot. Other members too are staying with their relatives.”
Birendra Singh, former resident 

Till the residents manage to secure a developer who will rebuild their project, temporary residential arrangements are their only option.

“Initially, we lived with our friends and relatives, then stayed at a location which our religious trust directed us to. Now, we are staying on rent. In the last one year, we have changed at least 5-6 houses. When will we get our own home again? That’s the biggest question we are faced with now.”
Darshan Doshi, former resident

“We end up spending Rs 40,000 each month, including rent. Only we know how we are managing. Despite owning a house we don’t actually have one,” said an inconsolable Rita Doshi.

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