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Mumbai: Struggles continue for Damu Nagar fire survivors

The biggest fight has been to get the basic identification documents that most of them lost in the fire.

Written by Natasha Trivedi | Mumbai |
September 27, 2016 2:27:45 am
mumbai, mumbai slum fire, damu nagar fire, damu nagar slum, slum fire, mumbai slums, fire in mumbai slum, fire mumbai slum, mumbai news, maharashtra news, india news Many complain that they missed out on getting punchnama issued for the losses and were never compensated. Express photo

WHEN A massive fire gutted nearly 2,000 hutments in the Damu Nagar area of Kandivli in December last year, local politicians, social service workers, and residents made a beeline for the spot to help the aggrieved hutment dwellers. A year later, however, the hutment dwellers stand alone as they wait for the relief measures announced with much fanfare to materialise.

The biggest fight has been to get the basic identification documents that most of them lost in the fire. “The fire was so sudden and was spreading so quickly that most people just ran out of their houses to save themselves. Savings, important documents, clothes, vessels, gold – everything was left behind,” said Jeetendra Sabhale, a resident whose house was completely burnt in the fire.

Soon after the incident, the local collector’s office conducted a survey to issue punchnamas to people who suffered losses in the fire. The punchnama was essential as it worked as official proof of the documents lost by the locals without which they would have nothing to substantiate the losses.

Residents, however, claim that a lot of them were left out in the survey due to various reasons, and hence did not receive a punchnama. “My nephew, who was living with me when the incident happened had gone missing for three days after the fire. Since I was looking for him, I was unable to file an application with the officials who had come even though I knew that they were registering people for a punchnama. When I went to them later, they said they would come to the area again to include all those who had missed out, but they never did,” said Suman Sharma, another resident whose house perished in the fire.

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Sharma, along with 50 others who did not have punchnamas, did not get a solution to their problem despite making numerous rounds of the collector’s office, even in Bandra. As a result, these people lost out when it came to any relief that was provided in the aftermath of the fire. “We did not receive the compensation amounts of Rs 3,800 or Rs 25,000, or the ration that the government gave the others,” Sharma said.

“We also did not materials like bamboo or tarpaulin to rebuild our homes. Most of the social service workers also distributed relief material based on the identification as per the panchnama”, Sharma added.

Shiv Sena MLA Prakash Surve, however, denied the claim that some inhabitants still did not have a punchnama issued to them. “The claim is not true. Yes, there were people who got left out initially, but they were covered in the follow-up visits to the area”, said Surve.

Meanwhile, the residents have started rebuilding their houses at the original location with the compensation money. However, this time too, they could only afford to build houses using metal and tarpaulin sheets, though the tiled flooring gives them some stability. “The forest department has been promising us flats in Chandivli for many years, and even though some people have received the keys, a majority have not, despite having paid the amount for registration. If we would have received our flat, we would not still be here,” said Vimal Doke, who has rebuilt her home.

In another glimmer of hope for the residents, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently announced that MMRDA flats would be constructed for these people close to their original homes. “In a meeting last week, they said they would make these flats in approximately 2-4 months; the exact location has not been announced,” said Gautam Pandagle, district vice-president of the BJP.

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