MUMBAI: Campa Cola residents whose flats have been declared illegal are understandably under pressure, but legal residents whose homes are not up for demolition are enveloped by insecurity as well. Two reports by structural engineers indicate that the remaining structure will not be fit for habitation once the illegal portions are demolished. The legal residents also wonder how the BMC will continue to provide water and electricity while cutting off utilities for the illegal flats. After all, flats in each wing in the compound have a common water tank.
Though it is families living in the upper floors of the compound’s seven buildings who stand to lose their homes, their neighbours on the lower floors have joined the pitched battle against the authorities for several reasons. “We have received reports by two structural engineers stating that the stability of the buildings will be threatened once the top portion is lopped off. After all, how can you crudely demolish columns and beams at the top and hope that the lower portions will remain unaffected? The BMC has a parallel report claiming that the lower floors will be unaffected. We don’t trust the authorities in this matter,” said a second-floor resident.
A group of Gujarati women stood guarding the entrance of the compound on November 12. They live in Esha Ekta building and though none of them was affected personally, each stood by her neighbours at this hour of trial. “I dread to think how our buildings will look once the top floors have been demolished. The ghost of our affected neighbours will haunt us throughout. Moreover, the work of actual demolition will continue for at least a year, going by the BMC’s slow pace. Through this time we will have to bear loud noise and flying debris on a daily basis,” said Seema Murarka.
Her friend Jeena Mehta pointed out how a slum over the wall was being resettled into an SRA building right behind Campa Cola. “I wonder how a government that offers free houses to slum settlers till the year 2000 thinks nothing of dishousing owners of apartments purchased with hard-earned money,” she said.
Another society member, Yogesh Malhotra, owns three apartments, none of which comes within the ambit of the Supreme Court’s fire. Yet he has campaigned tirelessly for his neighbours and is the go-to person for media personnel covering the issue. “I had loaned my maid Rs 20,000 to buy a house that is now worth Rs 55 lakh. And to think that my own neighbours’ homes, which are worth crores of rupees, will be razed to the ground! It is a stroke of luck that my own flats are located below the fifth floor. We are one big family and we must stand up for one another,” Yogesh said.