While builders, developers, govt officials and politicians manage to get away with blue murder, it is the innocent residents that bear the brunt of the burden in actually witnessing their hard-earned savings being bulldozed
Two leading newspapers on 17 November 2013 – Sunday Times of India, Mumbai and The Hindu Business Line, coincidentally carried reports with a common theme but different perspectives - “Battling the Bulldozers” and “Lessons from Campa Cola” respectively. The reports ought to be eye-openers to all citizens more particularly those living in the growing metros.
Flagrant violations of the land use norms with the active and passive connivance of the neta-babu-builder mafia nexus has become the order of the day. While the perpetrators manage to get away with blue murder, it is the innocent residents that bear the brunt of the burden in actually witnessing their hard-earned savings being bull dozed for no fault of theirs by unwittingly falling victims to the sweet promises of the shelter of roof over their heads of a Home-Sweet-Home.
Though there are many clusters of the juggi-jhopdis in and around the National Capital Region of New Delhi and its surrounding areas, residents of Mumbai are mute witness day-in-and-day out to the blatant wrongdoings both for the numerous high-rise luxurious apartments essentially on mill lands bang in the heart of the city, as well as the proliferating slums coming up all over the metropolis, making over 60% of Mumbaikars slum residents. Being great vote banks, the slum clusters are seen to be actively supported by the parties and netas of all hues and colours who tacitly acquiesce by supporting their initial setting up but conveniently put on the disappearance act when the bull dozers raise them down.
According to an RTI (Right to Information) response in Delhi’s Lutyen’s bungalow zone, the UPA government has allowed BSP supremo, Mayawati, whose support is crucial for its existence, to retain and merge three Type VI bungalows 12, 14 and 16 on Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road, also allowed one Type VIII bungalow 4 on the same road and another number 3 on Tyagraj Marg by according approval to the Bahujan Samaj Prerna Trust to merge into mega buildings. Initially the Government’s Directorate of Estate had raised various objections on account of numerous violations and to also to their amalgamation a single unit to construct a 32 bedroom complex. Though there is a complete ban of constructions in the bungalow zone, these and five other charitable trusts – Nehru Memorial Museum, Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial, Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation are allowed to operate in the zone. All these are cases of “official violations” conveniently approved, just because they concern VVIPs!
High rises in the metros
Flats in Mumbai are sold and taken possession of and fully occupied despite the absence of the mandatory Occupation Certificate (OC). According to an expert, there are over 55,000 buildings without OC from the Municipal Corporation for non-compliance with and in violations of deviations from the approved plans, non-compliance with sanction conditions, building-byelaws including exceeding FSI norms, illegally covered projections, flouting of CRZ and Air Space regulations, Fire safety and building stability norms, illegal utilization of mandatory open and parking spaces, margins and set backs, land use, zoning laws, green belt/mangroves, construction on roads, pavements, water bodies, pipelines and near hazardous industries.
In the case of Campa Cola alone, as against the approved 5 floors the builder had 17 floors in one tower and 20 in another. In the other scam tainted Adarsh, a VVIP building in Mumbai’s tony down town, Colaba, with a sanctioned plan for just six stories had ended up in constructing 31 stories when completed! There were wholesale violations from the word go – no prior clearances for use of defence lands, no environmental clearances, encroachment on roads and foot paths, no air space clearance and floors built far in excess of those sanctioned. The allottees were all VVIPs including service chiefs, ministers’ kith and kin, and topmost serving bureaucrats. The joke goes – every top babu who touched the Adarsh file was rewarded with an illegal flat – from the city’s Municipal Commissioner to the City Collector!
Jayant Tipnis (70) one time the Campa Cola Society’s long time (since 1985) architect has publicly gone on record to say that he had cautioned the builders of irregularities on various occasions. He asserts that everyone, repeat, ever one of the residents, was very well aware of the irregularities when they acquired the flats at throw away prices. Despite BMC from time to time issuing stop work notices, the developers just went ahead even to the extent of covering and selling the stilt area to a reputed ad agency. The BMC engineers all along preferred to look the other way rather than initiate demolition. Four successive chief ministers of Maharashtra rejected the applications for regularisation that was subsequently confirmed by the Bombay High Court and upheld by the Supreme Court. Consequently the Campa Cola residents cannot now claim that were unaware of the blatant irregularities, believing that by throwing money can bring about regularisations.
On 18 November 2013, the chief minister of Maharashtra had sought the President’s assent to the Maharashtra Housing (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2012 that was passed by the State Legislature last year. This is stated to be a “Comprehensive legislation seeking to ensure full disclosure by promoters and developers and compliance of agreed terms and conditions through registration, monitoring and regulating real estate projects by a Housing Regulatory Authority, by seeking to usher transparency, remove information asymmetry and bring discipline in real estate transactions. It aims at promoting planned development and construction, sale, transfer and management of flats in residential buildings and other real estate projects and protects the interests of home buyers. Help in substantially curbing violations in the DC Rules including adherence to FSI norms.”
Now the lessons from Campa Cola:
Bull dozing slum clusters
It needs to be pointed out that in both Adarsh and Campa Cola, no bulldozer was ordered to move in. But authorities do not hesitate to put them into ruthless use for mowing down slums that the poor have shelled out thousands out of the sale proceeds of their farm lands as also their hard-earned sweat and labour in Mumbai’s sun and rains. At times the slum lords go to the extent of setting fire to the entire slum cluster to bring about forcible evictions.
Around the same time as the media frenzy over Campa Cola Society the media conveniently ignored the plight of 323 households of the 46 member Ganesh Kripa Society at Golibar, Khar. Half of the residents refused to budge, choosing to live in the midst of rubble in a neighbourhood now resembling a war zone. The conditions in the transit camp are most unsanitary, built on illegal Air Force Land with the builder forging signatures. According to a victim, BMC/MMRDA/SRA/CIDCO demolition crews tend to have an uncanny knack of turning up only during board examinations when hall tickets are forcibly moved to transit camps.
One dislodged slum dweller rightly laments the soft treatment accorded to Campa Cola residents who mocked the authorities by locking the gates and parking their cars saying, “Run the bulldozers over us and the BMC authorities and police do nothing just because they are rich. On the contrary, when we protest they just shove us in to the police vans. How come they can violate the Supreme Court rulings when we are required to abide by the 2010 Bombay High Court orders?”
According to a well known civic activist, it is only after the state government places an absolute ban on registering irregular real estate transactions by collecting hefty stamp duty on flat transfers in Non-OC buildings can these violations be put to an effective end.
The government by collecting huge stamp duty virtually accords its official stamp of approval to the sale and purchase of illegal/ irregular constructions that continue unabated. On the other hand it also unjustifiably chooses to maintain that the poor slum dwellers do not warrant protection just because they do not hold state authenticated documents of title that the state confers on the rich and denies to the poor. A case of absolutely perverted logic! In the recent past buildings built as late as 30 years back have started crashing like pack of cards.
It is time the society wakes up to rectify this widespread blatant discrimination between the so-called haves and the have nots practised right in our midst today.
Those seeking help or advice on CHS issues can contact Moneylife Foundation’s Legal Resource Centre (LRC) ( http://moneylife.in/lrc.html )
(Nagesh Kini is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant turned activist.)
Prabhat Sharma, the head for corporate affairs at Tata Steel has been booked by Vasai police for allegedly abetting the suicide of Charu Deshpande, the steelmaker’s former PR chief
Vasai police, who are investigating the alleged suicide of Charudutta (Charu) Deshpande, former chief of corporate communication of Tata Steel, has booked Prabhat Sharma, the steelmaker's head for corporate affairs.
This follows a complaint by Forbes India's former editor Indrajit Gupta against the Tata Steel official for allegedly abetting the suicide of Charu Deshpande.
57-year-old Deshpande, was found hanging at his Vasai home on 28th June this year. No suicide note was found. His friends and former colleagues alleged that he had been harassed.
Police have registered a first information report (FIR) and booked Sharma under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to Gupta’s complaint, Charu, a senior official at Tata Steel, was constantly humiliated and harassed between May 2012 and May 2013 following which he took the drastic decision to end his life.
Soon after Mumbai crime branch began the probe, the investigating team had laid their hands on a piece of evidence from Charu's another residence in Borivili.
Two diaries of 2012 and 2013 were found in which Charudatta Deshpande had mentioned about the happenings in office. And in one of the pages, he had even written notes and named some Tata Steel officials.
The content of the pages clearly depicted the mood of Charu, and it indeed reflects that he committed suicide due to unhappiness and frustration at work place, a police official had said.
In July, nine journalists, including the Forbes India ex-editor and president of the Press Club of Mumbai wrote a letter to Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry, chairman of the Tata group, alleged that there was a concerted attempt by “Tata Steel officials and the PR agency to pass off his (Charu's) death as a heart attack, and not a suicide.” (Death of a PR Man)
The letter says that Charu was accused of ‘leaking’ confidential documents to journalists for a Cover Story titled “Remoulding Tata Steel”; that he was confined under virtual ‘house arrest’ for two weeks in Jamshedpur and repeatedly threatened.
Charu (as he was known) joined Tata Steel a year ago after a long stint with ICICI Bank and Mahindra & Mahindra. He had resigned from Tata Steel a month before his suicide on 28th June.
It was discovered that Charu Deshpande was the first person in Tata Steel who, despite being appointed at a very senior level, was not confirmed in service after completion of his probation.
The UPA has bowed down before the WTO and limited the grant of food subsidy to just four years in the Food Security Bill, alleges EAS Sarma, former secretary to the GoI, in a letter to Sonia Gandhi
EAS Sarma, former secretary to Government of India (GoI) has alleged Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is bowing to pressures from developed countries to limit the grant of food subsidy to just four years against the provisions in the Food Security Bill.
Mr Sarma, in a letter to UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, said, “If the benefits of the food security law were to last only four years, it would inevitably lead one to the conclusion that UPA has enacted the law only to gain political mileage for the coming elections and not with any commitment to the need to provide nutritious food to the low-income groups.”
Here is the letter sent by Mr Sarma to the Congress president…
Smt Sonia Gandhi
Indian National Congress
Dear Smt Sonia Gandhi,
Subject: - India's stand at ensuing Bali session of WTO is an affront to National Food Security Act, 2013 enacted by the Parliament
The National Food Security Act, 2013 enacted by the Parliament on September 12, 2013 is a progressive law aimed at ensuring the supply of nutritious food to millions of low-income groups of the population. The law emerges from the right to nutritious food and right to live, a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
When the law was enacted by the Parliament, the leaders of INC tried to draw political mileage by saying that it was the Congress that spearheaded the initiative to introduce the law.
Hardly two months after its enactment, this Act that truly belonged to the Parliament has come under a serious threat as a result of UPA government's haste in making commitments to WTO prior to the Bali session of the world organisation scheduled to take place in December this year.
Apparently, under pressure from the developed countries, the government has caved in to agree to a 4-year “peace clause” (see enclosed report), tacitly accepting the latter's contention that food subsidy is a “market distorting subsidy” and limiting the grant of the subsidy to a time frame of four years. In other words, when the Parliament of this country has provided a permanent statutory foundation for food security as a fundamental right, the UPA executive has bowed down before WTO and introduced a time limitation, a concept not envisaged by the Parliament. In a way, it amounts to holding the Parliament in contempt and defying a fundamental right of the citizen provided in the Constitution. There cannot be anything more bizarre than this.
It is ironic that India should initially lead 46 developing countries in WTO to press the argument that the concept of food security should be deemed to be outside the world organisation's protocols on free trade, but quietly cave in to the pressures exerted by the developed countries to discard that argument overnight. In the process, the UPA government has literally questioned the sovereignty of the Indian Parliament and the applicability of the Indian laws.
If the benefits of the food security law were to last only four years, it would inevitably lead one to the conclusion that UPA has enacted the law only to gain political mileage for the coming elections and not with any commitment to the need to provide nutritious food to the low-income groups.
I am marking this letter to all political parties and Parliamentarians so as to generate a debate on the stand that the government should take before WTO, when the Parliament itself has enacted a law.
Former Secretary to GOI