Over 700 residents of a Howrah Improvement Trust (HIT) housing estate are living in fear as their flats are in a state of disrepair.
The residents allege that HIT has not undertaken maintenance work or even minor repairs at the complex for nearly 25 years, thus putting their lives at stake.
A portion of a third-floor sunshade in the E block of Scheme I, which has 24 flats, collapsed on Monday morning. No one was injured.
'There are seven blocks, with a total of 128 flats in this compound. All of them are in a dilapidated state and portions of the buildings collapse on a regular basis,' complained Jayanta Santra, a resident of flat no. 5 in the G block.
He alleged that maintenance work has not been carried out in any of the seven blocks in Scheme I in the past 25 years.
Cave-ins and collapses at the buildings in the past six months have seriously injured three persons.'Death looms over us,' stated Santra gravely.
The ceilings of the flats seem to pose the greatest danger. The centre of the roof of the B-block building has subsided, giving it the shape of a bowl.
'The ceiling of my kitchen collapsed a few months ago,' pointed out Geetarani Dhara, resident of flat no. 15, on the top floor of B block.
The plaster has entirely come off the ceiling of her flat, exposing the iron girders.
'I literally tremble every time I have to enter the kitchen,' Dhara said.
But she has to, every day, as her kitchen leads to the toilet.
Parts of almost all the sunshades on the fourth floors of the blocks have collapsed.
Residents of flat nos. 19, 20 and 21 of G block are using bamboo props to prevent their ceilings from collapsing.
'The residents of the complex have not paid their rent regularly since 1982. They owe us thousands of rupees. HIT doesn't have the money to repair the flats,' said Pradip Kumar Biswas, CEO, HIT.
He added that a drive to collect rent was carried out by HIT earlier this year, but 'it yielded only about Rs 70,000, which is inadequate to carry out repair work of any consequence'.
The owner of a B-block flat, however, produced the tenant's copy of a rent receipt issued by HIT for the months of May and June 2005. He asserted that most residents pay their rent regularly.
HIT has offered to sell the flats for Rs 33,600 each, but no one has taken up the offer.