Once an underworld haven, Dagdi Chawl to make way for shiny skyscrapers
Gawli and the tenants have partnered with Livingstones Infra for the redevelopment project, which will include two 40-storey buildings.
Mumbai: Former underworld don Arun Gawli, serving a life term for the murder of a Shiv Sena corporator in 2007, sought furlough this month from Nagpur jail so he could be a part of the 50th year Navratri celebrations at Dagdi Chawl.
It would be, he knew, his last Navratri at the precinct he has lorded over, and which has become an inextricable part of Mumbai’s underworld lore. Next month onward the 386 tenants of Dagdi Chawl will start moving out of 4000 square meter plot in a phased manner. The structure-- with its intricate tunnels which would be barricaded by women during police raids, allowing Gawli time to escape—and it’s adjoining 4-storey buildings, will be demolished to make way for two 40-storey buildings. One of them will be to rehouse the tenants while the other tower will be offered for free sale.
Gawli, known as Daddy in Dagdi Chawl, and the tenants have tied up with the little-known Livingstones Infra Private Limited for the redevelopment project.
Vinayak Karawade, chairman of the Dagdi Chawl tenants’ association, said at present there were 10 four-storeyed buildings inside Dagdi chawl housing over a thousand people. Two of them are already dilapidated. “Daddy (Gawli) is our landlord, on his behalf we have obtained consent of all the tenants to redevelop. MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) had given us letter of intent in 2021 for redevelopment as these building are cess buildings and require MHADA’s permission to redevelop.”
All the tenants, he said will be given rented accommodation in the neighbourhood until the new towers are built. “Our plan is to provide every tenant anything from 450 to 500 square feet in the new tower,” said Karawade.
Shiv Sena (UBT) deputy leader Vinod Ghosalkar who was the chairperson for Mumbai Building Repairs and Reconstruction Board until January this year said, “They had sent me a proposal two years back through a builder. It is a complex of 10 buildings and Gawli claims ownership of some of them. Part of the chawl’s buildings are dilapidated and had been vacated by MBRRB. Those residents are already staying in transit camps.” Gawli’s daughter Geeta, a former corporator, said the family will also move out to another house in the vicinity.
The redevelopment juggernaut has led to the gentrification of the Jacob Circle area in Mahalaxmi and has changed the skyline of what was once the heart of Central Mumbai’s textile mill land extending up to Lalbaug Parel and Worli. There are at least 17 multi-storey luxury projects from some of the city’s leading developers in within a 1.28 m radius of Mahalaxmi railway station – all promising unhindered views of the Arabian Sea and the Race Course.
On one side of the Saat Rasta Circle are the imposing M-shaped Lokhandwala Minerva with a certified height of 300.6 m or 986 ft and Piramal Mahalaxmi while on the other side, the Raheja Vivarea towers have come up on the Anandrao Naik Marg. Raheja are also building Raheja Modern Vivarea right behind the police lock up at Jacob Circle where gangster Babu Reshim, who once controlled central Mumbai underworld along with Arun Gawli and Rama Naik, was killed in 1987. The Lodha group is developing Lodha Bellevue Mahalaxmi on the Maulana Azad Road. Dagdi Chawl is located on the third arterial road of saat rasta, the Bapurao Jagtap Marg which further connects Agripada with the Byculla station road. A little ahead of Arun Gawli’s headquarters lies the erstwhile Khatau textile mill where now stands Monte South, a joint development by Adani group and Marathon group offering Eastern waterfront views.
“The chawl had once provided a safe hideout to Gawli who was at loggerheads with the Dawood Ibrahim and Ashwin Naik gangs. While Dawood killed Gawli’s brother and Gawli retaliated by carrying out a hit job on Dawood’s brother-in-law Ibrahim Parkar, he would always retreat into the safety of Dagdi Chawl where no one could enter without his permission,” recalls retired Assistant Commissioner of police, Sunil Deshmukh. But now the underworld is dead, and on its old haunts, skyscrapers are burgeoning to house the city’s new powerful class.