Mumbai: It's been 13 years since 63-year-old Vinayak Shankar Wagle moved into his eighth floor flat at Akurli Golden Palace Apartments in Kandivli with wife Mangala (60) and son Salil (32) in tow. It was like a dream come true for the patriarch, till he got the low-down on what the circumstances actually were. This building that stands inside the Lokhandwala Township in Kandivli, has a total of 88 flats divided into two wings.
Around 65 dwellings are occupied, according to residents. Each wing has a provision of two lifts, one of which is semi-automatic and the other automatic. There is just one hitch not one of the four lifts has been functional for the past two years.
Vinayak has been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which has resulted in severe breathing problems. His condition is such that he starts wheezing after walking a few metres. The sexagenarian has been suffering from this ailment for seven years now, and his condition worsened earlier this month.
He had to be rushed to a private hospital in Andheri on March 16 and was kept in the ICU for the next four days. Even when the matter of taking him to the hospital came up, his relatives and the paramedical staff from the ambulance had to carry him all the way down from the eighth floor, using the stairs.
Needless to say it took a similar effort for him to reach his flat after being discharged. When this reporter visited the building, he was forced to walk all the way to the top (11th) floor merely to meet the residents. Sources in the apartment complex confirmed that the lifts in both the wings have been out of order since March 2011.
They added that after the lifts were instated in 2001, they functioned on and off till 2003. From 2003 to 2006 all four lifts remained inoperative. The semi-automatic lifts were working from May 2006 till March 2011. Then these too stopped running.
The members of the society have written several complaints to the developer, Jyoti Enterprises, but to no avail. Speaking to MiD DAY, Vinayak Wagle said, "I have not stepped out of this house since 2011. I had the habit of going for a stroll every day, but as my breathing trouble has worsened I can't imagine climbing up and down the stairs. We had a similar situation around 10 years ago when none of the lifts functioned. But I was a younger man then and could manage the physical exertion."
His wife Mangala, who is the owner of the house, said, "After moving into this flat I hardly remember ever having seen the automatic lifts operate. As my husband is not in a position to walk down the stairs, my son and I do the entire running around. Every day I have to make a minimum of two trips up and down these stairs." She added, "Earlier the LPG supplier used to drop off the cylinder at our doorstep and we used to pay him extra for having to climb eight floors. But for the past several months even they have been refusing to do so. They now drop the cylinders off at the building entrance."
That's not all. As per his doctor's advice, Vinayak requires oxygen cylinders. But since last year the supplier has refused to deliver merely because of the struggle of carrying the cylinders to the eighth floor. Vinayak is not the only senior citizen in the building who has to bear the brunt of the state of affairs. MiD DAY found another family residing on the seventh floor of the same wing as the Wagles.
Tehmi Baria (75) has been living with her son and other relatives in this society for the past 10 years. She too has breathing trouble and has not stepped out of the house for over a year now. "I remain indoors the entire day. These lifts do not function and at this age I can't possibly use the stairs daily. I fell ill last month and we had to request the doctor to come up to our flat," Baria said.
"It is very difficult to live in a high-rise without any lifts. The situation is so bad that when we ask for home delivery all the carriers demand extra money just because they have to walk up to the seventh floor. Even that doesn't always work and often we have to go all the way down to receive our orders. Thankfully we have a maid who does the legwork," said her son Yzdi.
While speaking to this reporter, a domestic help who works in a few households in the building said, "I used to visit a few flats twice or thrice a day. But now, with the non-functional lifts I have explicitly told my employers that I wouldn't be able to come more than once a day. By the time I reach a flat on a higher floor I feel completely exhausted."
Sources in the building alleged that the developer had illegally built three extra floors in one of the wings and two more in the other. Hence, the occupation certificate (OC) from the government is still pending. They also claimed that the developer had not taken any permission before installing these lifts and also failed to get any authorisation for operating them. The quality of the lifts is also said to be below par, as they break down frequently and require heavy maintenance.
Rs 60 Lakhs the approximate cost of replacing all four lifts in the building.
The other side
Tarun Bajaria, the developer and owner of Jyoti Enterprises, brushed aside the allegations. "I have paid for fixing the lifts twice. Now, they have stopped operating for the third time and it is the responsibility of the society members to shell out the money. Several issues related to the building are pending in courts. As long as these are not sorted out I will not pay for fixing the lifts." Bajaria added, "These matters cannot be discussed over the phone. I cannot comment on other allegations by the residents. I have necessary documents to prove my statements."
After knee-replacement surgery on both legs, doctors advised my 57-year-old husband to walk less.He is not supposed to climb the stairs, but we have no option.Luckily our flat is on the second floor. - Manda Bagwe
My husband met with an accident in 2012 and has undergone surgery in his legs. He is 56 and has to climb seven floors daily using a walking stick. I am a housewife and I have to climb the stairs daily about six times. Our nine and seven-year-old grandkids used to live with us. But the lift issue has forced my daughter and the kids to shift to Ghatkopar. I am forced to carry LPG cylinders and groceries all the way up, because my husband can't. - Kusum Madne
Lifts have not been working for over two years. The society hasn't received an OC, as the developer has constructed few floors illegally. When we purchased this flat, it was a new construction and we believed permissions would be obtained soon. But nothing has improved since then. Relatives visit only when the lifts are working. We are unable to sell the flat as no buyer wants to put up with the inoperative lifts. - Sitaram and Poonam Ghadge