Why People In Mumbai Live In Unsafe Homes And Risk Their Lives

In the city, where people say that finding god is easier than finding a home, residents continue to stay in unsafe buildings even if it means risking their lives


In May, 499 buildings in Mumbai were identified as "very dangerous" by the BMC.


The death of 14 people in a building collapse in Mumbai's Dongri on Tuesday has yet again highlighted how people in the city continue to live in dilapidated homes that are on the verge of collapse.

In the city, where people say that finding god is easier than finding a home, residents continue to stay in unsafe buildings even if it means risking their lives. In several cases, the buildings are illegal and in many cases, the residents cannot afford redevelopment.

In May, 499 buildings in Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, were identified as "dangerous" by the BMC or Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

While some were later cleared as these buildings met the safety norms; in most buildings, people simply refused to move out.

NDTV conducted a reality check in two buildings and a chawl, which according to the BMC, should be brought down immediately as they could collapse any time.

In Sewri, 317 families living in the Veena Beena Cooperative Housing Society say they will carry out repairs as redevelopment is not feasible. Lack of trust in builders, fear of losing a home and a terrible transit accommodation are some of the reason that they give for not choosing redevelopment as an option.

Joseph Lewis, secretary of Veena Beena Cooperative Housing Society, told NDTV, "There are several doubts because the lobby of builders is very powerful and when builders don't complete their projects on time, people are forced to live in transit camps and that is why people are afraid to go for redevelopment though the buildings are old. They feel safe staying in the old buildings rather than shifting."

After Tuesday's building collapse, the government is looking into the hurdles of redevelopment. 

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis held a meeting with top officials on Wednesday to see how the buildings in the C1 category, which have been identified as "very dangerous", can be redeveloped without delay.

The current redevelopment policy is prohibitively expensive which leaves middle class and lower income groups at the mercy of builders.

In Parel's Kamgar Chawl, 240 families have been trying to reconstruct their chawl into a proper building since 2012 but they say their attempts have gone in vain.

The project is stuck as the policy is unclear on private property redevelopment. The chawl is in a bad shape and it could collapse any day, according to the BMC.

Sanjay Mohite, chairman of the Kamgar Chawl resident's association, told NDTV, "The premium for a new building that the government and the municipality charges is so high that even developers find it difficult to take on projects. There is no policy for us as this is not a cessed building (cessed buildings pay the cess tax or a repair fund). They tell us to approach the BMC or MHADA. And  they tell us that since ours is an uncessed property, nothing can be done."

Ronak Sutaria from the Urban Sciences group, who has studied the redevelopment policy, says, the government needs to take responsibility for and stop "the insanely high charges, taxes and premiums, especially when they are sitting on over Rs. 60,000 cash reserves".

"Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) premiums and government taxes account for almost 55-60 per cent of the cost of redeveloping old buildings. This coupled with the frequent changes in norms and rules has made redevelopment a tricky and risky business activity for developers and housing societies. It doesn't make sense to have such high premiums from redevelopment as the MCGM generates a lot of revenue from property taxes of new buildings. Holding onto high premiums means delaying redevelopment and property taxes from new buildings," Mr. Sutaria told NDTV.

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