Majority of them are illegal and inhabited by people who cannot afford to get the structural audit done; local representatives pin hopes on govt resolution that could regularise the structures
A dilapidated building in Ulhasnagar
The fate of those living in around 1,000 buildings in Ulhasnagar is in limbo, as no structural audit has been done of any of these structures. Though civic officials have sent notices to the building secretaries and residents, urging them to get the audit done, there has been no response from them. Local representatives feel once the Government Resolution on regularisation of the structures comes, the issue will be resolved. But until then, residents continue to live in fear.
The Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) has sent notices to residents of 1,300 buildings in the city, asking them to get their structural audit done. Of these only 300 buildings have done the structural audit and they have been categorized by the UMC as per the different levels of risk. The demolition of highly dangerous structures has also been begun, as also is the process of cutting the supply of water and electricity to the buildings which need to be emptied to get the repairs done.
Around 1,055 buildings in the city have been termed as illegal. Pic/Navneet Barhate
But the major issue before the UMC is the around 1,000 buildings, whose residents haven’t done the structural audit of the structures. Even after reminders and notices, no fresh audit report has been submitted in the UMC, making it difficult for officials to fathom the situation. Around 1,055 buildings in the city have been termed as illegal due to various violations by the developers or the tenants. Several flat owners have not registered their sale deeds while the developers of some of the buildings are not traceable. The flat owners in such buildings have very limited documents such as tax receipts to prove their ownership.
“It’s a major challenge. Unless the residents get the audit done, how will we know whether a building is habitable. There are multiple reasons for not getting the audit report, like non-regularization of the building. But at the end of the day, the UMC can’t decide on its own. The concern was expressed by the UMC commissioner during a meeting last week too, but there is no response to it,” said an official from UMC.
No housing society
Almost all of the buildings have been constructed without permission and there is no government record of ownership as far as the civic body is concerned. As there is no record, there is no housing society which can take decisions about repairs or audit. This has become the biggest hurdle for residents too. “The expenses for an audit go into lakhs of rupees. For our 4 floor structure, the expenditure is around Rs 4 lakh, but the estimate is pre-pandemic.
Now we don’t know the exact cost and nobody from the building is ready to contribute,” said Manoj Keswani, who stays in a building on Khemani Road. “There is no unity among the residents which has resulted in the sorry state of the building. Our building is 20-years-old, but as there is no audit we don’t know what’s the strength of this structure,” he added.
Low income a major hurdle
Birju Yadav, living in Ulhasnagar number 2, said, “I live on a rental basis in a ground plus 4 floor structure. Most of the residents in my building are like me. Our building’s owners are not bothered about any such matters. They only take rent from us and tell us if there are any repairs or other work, we have to do it on our own. The structural audit costs in lakhs of rupees. Even if all the residents come together, they can’t afford the fees of the auditors.” The building in which Yadav lives, has its pillars and ceiling exposed and pieces of the ceiling fall frequently.
“We understand the issue is very critical. The monsoon will arrive soon and if a building which is dangerous collapses there will be unnecessary loss of life. But we are hopeful of the government. The CM had ordered the regularisation of such buildings. A GR was also issued about it but the cost to pay the penalty is very high. But the government departments are working on it and we are hopeful there will be a new GR in the next one or two weeks. But residents should understand the gravity and if they feel their structure is dangerous, they should get the audit done or simply leave it for good,” said Kumar Ailani, MLA (Ulhasnagar).
“The UMC has limited resources, we can’t do audits of all the buildings in the city. but we have told most of the buildings’ residents to get it done for their own betterment. If they don’t know the strength of the structure they are living in, how will they decide whether to live in it? Residents should come together and get the audit done as soon as possible to avoid any casualty,” said Jamir Lengrekar, additional commissioner.