Campa Cola: ‘Battling the bulldozers’ is an eye-opener for home buyers

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:
 

  • Flat buyers should bear in mind the age old golden rule – caveat emptor customers beware! To avoid disruption of life when demolition becomes inevitable
     
  • Going in for completed buildings is a far safer option than under-construction flats that may sound comparatively cheaper
     
  • Before putting signature on the dotted line on initial agreement and at every stage in the process thereafter, according top priority should carry out Due Diligence of the Builder and the Project.  Even some reputed builders have been found to be not above board on the land use issues
     
  • Inspection of the original title to the plot,  conformity to its exact land use under-developed plan and zoning requirements by visiting the BMC Building Proposals Department to ascertain the authenticity of the copies of approvals, NOC from CRZ, air space, defence and proximity to hazardous industries
     
  • The agreement given by the builders need to be vetted by an experienced independent attorney to ensure that it includes adequate guarantees to title and approvals and also provide for compensation for non-compliance
     

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.  

 

NOTE:
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.)

Comments
Ashok Chellani
5 years ago
In my society there is a case where the original allotted expired 25 years ago nominating his wife who expired in 2004 Re nominating her daughter in law who took care of her and her husband even though the other children were there in the year 2006 all the legal heirs have give relinquished their rights by a notarized affidavit the society had transferred the share certificate on the basis of the nomiform now my question is what is the position of the daughter in law as the building is going for a redevelopment
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