Mumbai: ‘Our livelihood is gone and we have no compensation’

March 31,2023

At least 15 of the 16 decades-old shops in the middle of S V Road bridge in Malad, were finally removed on Wednesday by the BMC. Work on the dilapidated part of the bridge started simultaneously. But shop owners eligible for compensation claim they haven’t received it so far. One shop owner filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against the eviction and his shop was spared. 

mid-day, in a series of reports from November 2022, had highlighted the issue of structures creating a bottleneck to the new lanes of the bridge and that vehicles were plying on the old, dilapidated structure of the bridge. The bridge was declared dilapidated in 2019 after the structural audit report and the construction of two new lanes on either side of the old bridge was completed around June 2022. But as the structures were not removed, the lanes were not opened and heavy traffic continued on the dilapidated part.

Some of the demolished shops. Pic/Anurag Ahire

In the second week of February, the BMC started two lanes without removal of structures and reconstruction of the old part, but as the vehicles have to take a turn while accessing the lanes, traffic movement was slow.

‘Removal was necessary’

“The bridge runs over a 10-metre-wide nullah. Though the width of SV Road is around 90 feet, the old bridge was 45-feet wide. With the construction of the new lanes, the bridge is now 90-foot-wide, but the shops posed a hurdle for direct access from the road to the new lanes. It was necessary to clear the bottleneck as the bridge is now 90 feet but the width of the road on either end of the bridge is still 45 feet,” said an official from the Bridges Department of the BMC. Finally on March 29, the BMC started removal of the structures with police deployment.

“SV Road is a major arterial road which has huge traffic. At least 16 structures—on a stretch of 40 metre—near Ramchandra Lane Nala affected the road widening, and they were demolished on Wednesday. One of those structures will be removed after the court order,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner of P north ward, comprising Malad.

“These 16 structures directly affected the traffic. There are still 60 structures on the stretch of 400 metres, ahead of these structures. Out of them, 38 are eligible for compensation and we have started the process for it. There are no structures on the opposite side,” said a BMC official. He added, there were a total of 380 structures on SV Road in Malad under P North ward limits including a 100-year-old chawl and Police quarters. He said they started the demolition process to increase the width of SV Road.

But the issue of compensation to be given to shops and structures which sit on the alignment of the new lanes remained unresolved. Shopkeepers are also worried about their livelihood now.

Kamal Jain, the owner of a scrap shop said, “We didn’t get any eviction notice nor compensation before the demolition of our shops. The ward office asked us to submit papers on March 14 and we demanded full compensation. Thereafter we didn’t hear from them. We don’t have any money to buy another  shop. Where will we go? We don’t have another source of income.”

“We haven’t received a rupee in our bank accounts despite repetitive meetings and assurances from the BMC. The BMC assured us a sum way below the market price and we accepted it with a surety letter. But we haven’t received any amount in the bank as yet,” said Bharat Patel, one of the shopkeepers, whose shop was demolished on Wednesday.

‘HC said to spare my shop’

Laxmi Chand Satra, another shopkeeper, filed a petition in the high court against the BMC. “We were ready to cooperate with the authorities, but the BMC hasn’t given us the compensation yet. The BMC has offered us compensation as per their current policy. But if one follows the Central government’s policy, we should get double the ready reckoner rate. The civic body wasn’t ready to give us a surety letter saying we will be eligible for the increased amount if it adopts the central government policy. When I moved the court, they gave us a surety letter without any deadline. Even today, the high court asked the BMC not to take action against my shop,” said Satra.

Dighavkar said, “The BMC offered monetary compensation as the shopkeepers refused to move into available structures. We have already processed the compensation and it will reflect in their accounts by Monday.”

More action by BMC

On Wednesday, the BMC also took action against 87 constructions obstructing the Goregaon-Mulund road connecting the western and eastern suburbs. The action was taken on the 700-metre stretch from Civil and Sessions Court located in Dindoshi to Film City Road Junction. 

The BMC has taken up work on the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road with a total length of about 12 km. Out of this, about 2.8 km of road will be within limits of P North Ward.  As this road is proposed to be about 45.70 metres wide, a total of 237 constructions within the boundary of P north will obstruct the construction.

“Out of these constructions, 161 were eligible for compensation. About one and a half years ago, owners of 75 constructions filed a petition in the High Court. After hearing the arguments of the petitioners, the High Court dismissed the petition on March 14, and the petitioners appealed in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also dismissed the petition and BMC acted on Wednesday. 

“Almost all constructions obstructing Goregaon-Mulund road within limits of P North ward have now been removed and this will enable the concerned department to start widening   Goregaon-Mulund Link Road,” said an official.