Nagpur: When they bought exorbitantly priced apartments here 10 years ago they were convinced that they were paying the premium for “classy apartments with a lavish life style”. These would be part of the city’s first flagship integrated project (Housing+ mall+ cineplex+ 5 Star Hotel+ Software park) designed by none other than Hafeez Contractor and constructed by renowned builder.
We are sure that all the moneyed ‘elite’ who were looking to invest in properties in Nagpur at that time considered Empress City a very safe and smart bet. If you could afford it!!
Just a decade later, the dreams have turned to dust, and for the 70+ families who have dared to move in and live here, the ‘plush’ homes must be seeming more like prison. You fear and hate living here, but you can’t sell, rent and move anywhere else either. Your crores have begun looking like dead investment.
The greatest fear – safety of their children
“There is open wiring everywhere in the so called garden areas; unsafe fuse boxes, glass doors and panes that can fall and shatter at the slightest gust of wind – tell me, how can I send my two sons down to play here?” asks an anguished Poonam Mehadia, who has been living here with her husband, two kids and old in laws for the last 3-4 years.
“Forget the wiring, the so called garden is nothing but overgrown weeds; the water bodies ( some fountains and one swimming pool) are full of rubbish and stale, green water that is a haven for breeding of mosquitoes, some children have already come down with swine flu and other ailments” complains Anamika Rokde, of Rokde jewellers. “I can’t keep my children jailed within 4 walls of the apt. and I fear sending them down” she says.
No security guards, no CCTV cameras and no intercoms
This whole Empress City complex spread over acres and which will eventually have 550+ flats has just three security guards manning it now.
There were no CCTVc cameras, at the gate, entrance lobbies or anywhere else in the residential complex, though that is the first need of any ‘gated’ colony like this.
Though promised (along with CCTV ), there were no intercom phones for communication between the security at the gate/ entrance foyer and residents either.
After the two child kidnapping cases that rocked the city, the residents who almost all are parents of school going children, decided to invest in these two features themselves after builder refused to do so and fulfill his promise.
As additional safety, parents take turns in coming down and keeping a watch over children when they come down briefly in the evenings.
The residents have also cleared one part of the ‘garden area’ and installed some swings, slides and other play things at their own cost. They hope children will restrict themselves to this area, but kids being kids want to run, cycle and play wherever they desire… adding to moms’ concerns.
“What a tragedy this is! We bought not one, but two flats here thinking we were offering the best environment for our children to grow up in, and now we cannot let them have a run of the place. It is too hazardous” laments Mamta Agrawal.
The menace of stray dogs
The irony is, where one should see children playing, one sees groups of stray dogs running in packs moving freedly INSIDE the complex of Empress City.
This is due to the garbage that the Empress Mall shops throw behind the mall, which is squat in front of the apartment buildings! The garbage also contains food remains, often non-veg, of the many restaurants that exist in Empress Mall. Naturally this ‘tasty treat’ attracts many felines and canines. (Cats and dogs, not to mention the mice that breed in the dirt and waste).
We often hear of groups of stray dogs attacking, mauling and even killing little kids. A solitary dog may be a friendly creature but when they form a pack they are to be feared, specially by kids.
These dogs somehow come in mostly in the evenings; they have their fill, run around for some time and then settle for the night in the many spots offered to them within the ‘township’ which regrettably even include empty, unsold flats.
“We have often pleaded to the builder’s employees to lock up all empty flats for safety ” but our pleas fall on deaf ears. Says Pawan Jain, President of the Flat owners association.
These empty flats, which are mostly on the first floor which has not been sold for some commercial reasons ( probably expecting a windfall later?) become home to stray dogs, vagabonds and even homeless people.
There are signs that drinking and other vices are indulged in routinely in these empty flats. Their presence makes the whole area even more unsafe for both kids and women.
Remember the case in Delhi just last year where a 5 years old girl was ‘kidnapped’ by criminal elements living in the same complex as the girl’s family and they raped and tortured her for 3 days while the parents and the police were looking all over the city for the hapless child? When she was finally located stone’s throw away from her own house, she was already dead.
There have been 2-3 deaths in Empress already – of dogs who got trapped into some flats ( when they are sporadically locked up) and hunger and thirst drove them to jump from the open door ways and balconies of incomplete flats.
The gaping holes of these flats, are an eyesore in the facade of the buildings and must be causing tremors for residents when they look at them.
One can understand that when in a huge building complex a majority of the flats have remained unsold both builder and residents can face logistic problems in maintaining the area with limited funds.
Less flats sold means less people paying maintenance for large unoccupied areas too, and it does seem like both the promoters, namely KSL Industries limited& developer, Reward along with the 60 to 70 flat owners are feeling this financial pinch.
But for the purpose of marketability and sale ability of his own property the builder should have taken more care, like appointing more security guards, specially at the gate, and maintaining the area well.
As philosopher politician Nelson Mandela said : there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Need one say more?
—Sunita Mudaliar (Executive Editor)