Five years before the US presidential candidate Hilary Clinton faced off against Donald Trump, an Indian woman had showed the courage to stand up to him.
Smita Panvalkar, the then 54-year-old resident of an 87-year-old building in Mumbai stood fiercely between Trump and his dream to enter the Indian real estate market.
Image for representation only. Source: Pixabay
Back in 2011, Donald Trump had teamed up with a local developer to construct ‘Trump Tower’, a 65-storey building that was supposed to house some 50 ultra-luxury apartments in Mumbai. According to a BBC report, the developer had even forged a branding agreement with him stating that he would use the Trump brand name in exchange for royalties.
The site chosen for the project was the Pathare Prabhu Building in the posh south Mumbai neighbourhood of Chowpatty. It was home to 25 tenant families, the Panvalkars being one of them. Two more plots adjacent to the building were purchased for the same project.
The tenants were informed about the plan in 2004 and a majority of them agreed to move. “Nothing happened until 2010. Then the developers came and informed us to vacate the building so that they could develop it,” Mr Panvalkar told BBC.
Smita, taking a lead on the subject, refused to leave their three-room apartment.
“The developers offered compensation money and asked us to vacate the apartment. Smita told them we won’t leave the building unless they gave us an apartment in the new building. Much later we learnt that the building was named after Donald Trump, the famous American tycoon,” he said.
While all the other tenants had given in, the Panvalkar family didn’t move. Even after a small fire triggered by a short circuit resulted in a 45-day power outage in the building, Smita didn’t budge. She would cook food and do her chores in the candle light. As there was no electricity, the diabetic woman also had to go without her medicines for that period.
The local press found a hero in her. There were reports praising her as ‘woman who won’t let Donald Trump Mumbai’.
For the years that followed, the Panvalkars continued to live in the same building while the planned luxury tower also faced some issues with approvals. Trump eventually moved on and his company signed agreements with Lodha Group in Mumbai and Panchshil Group in Pune in 2013 and 2014 respectively, to develop two luxury residential buildings.
This ensured victory for Smita. Soon after the family finally breathed a sigh of relief, Smita lost her life due to a massive heart attack. In April, the Panvalkar finally moved out but not without getting what Smita had insisted on. In the 22-storey building that is coming up on the plot, the family will get a flat.