|Wall gone wild: If terrace gardens are the newest home accessory for affluent urbanites, wall forests reflect the sorry state of WS flats in Harmu, Ranchi. (Hardeep Singh)
The capital’s Harmu area can’t be blamed for turning schizophrenic.
Close to the palatial mansion of Team India skipper M.S. Dhoni, hi-profile offices of Rajya Sabha members Parimal Nathwani and K.D. Singh and BJP headquarters stands the shabby Harmu Housing Colony with saplings sprouting out of one of its largest apartment buildings.
Barely half a kilometre from Shaurya, Dhoni’s imposing home, nine blocks of the colony with 12 flats in each, comprising two bedrooms and a kitchen, present a startling contrast. Many banyan and peepal saplings that crowd the walls have even grown woody, flaunting luxurious foliage and posing a serious menace to residents.
The 108 weaker-section (WS) flats of the colony were built over 40 years ago to offer housing at reasonable rent to government employees who came to Ranchi from outside.
Now, residents of 108 flats each pay a nominal monthly rent — Rs 365 — to the civic guardian Jharkhand State Housing Board.
Though some argue that the rent is a pittance for an apartment in one of Ranchi’s best-known areas — normally, the monthly rent of such a flat would have been Rs 2,500 or more — there is no dispute that saplings pose a real danger to residents.
However, perhaps because residents feel they can’t rent a flat anywhere else in that amount, only students voiced their worries.
Rahul Kumar, resident and Class XI student of Gurunanak School, said the walls were in danger of collapse due to unchecked foliage. “If proper attention is not paid to cut saplings sprouting from walls, this apartment for lower-middle class people will fall down,” he said.
His friend, first-year commerce student of Yogada Satsanga Mahavidyalaya, Ritesh Kumar Shrivastava, agreed. “The board was told about the sapling menace many times, but nothing changed.”
Board officials, off the record, supported the fact that there was hardly any maintenance.
“The building is around 40 years old, with no maintenance for two decades. Due to this, plumbing has gone for a toss. Pipes attached to bathrooms leak and the moisture causes saplings to sprout and flourish. But they can’t be cut till orders come from superiors,” said one.
The board’s managing director Paramjeet Kaur expressed her helplessness.
“There is no fund to maintain the old building. This apart, the board does not have sufficient engineers to look after civil work. As far as engineering strength is concerned, the board has only three junior engineers and one chief,” she said.
Prodded for a solution to Harmu Housing Colony despite the limitations, Kaur passed the buck to residents.
“As far as maintenance of the building goes, one should not wait for board official to come and maintain old buildings. It is expected from the people residing in old building to come together and undertake maintenance just like flat owners of private apartments,” she said.