Worli residents: Why is the BMC in a hurry to raze our flats?
An unprecedented Supreme Court order which permits the BMC to demolish all structures above the fifth floor of seven buildings in Worli's Campa Cola Compound will render 200 families homeless.
Mumbai: An unprecedented Supreme Court order which permits the BMC to demolish all structures above the fifth floor of seven buildings in Worli's Campa Cola Compound will render 200 families homeless. The structures include 140 residential flats, many of the occupants of which are senior citizens and residents for more than 25 years. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation served a 48-hour eviction notice to the residents today and the razing of the structures on 35 illegal floors would begin on Monday.
The Supreme Court on 27 February had ordered the demolition of these irregular floors and said specifically that they cannot approach any government or political body for regularisation. The illegal floors of Midtown, Esha Ekta Apartments, Shubh Apartments, Patel Apartments (two buildings), B Y Apartments and Orchid will be demolished. While the builders were granted permission for ground-plus-five floors, Midtown went up to 20 floors, Orchid to 17, Esha Ekta to eight, Shubh to seven and BY and Patel to six floors each.
In November 1984, the BMC issued the first notice to the developers but did not take any further action and soon all the high-end flats were occupied. "It is a different story that after issuing the 'stop work notice', the authorities of the corporation buckled under pressure from the developers/builders and turned a blind eye to the illegal constructions made between 1984 and 1989," said the SC order.
The order, however, has turned out to be a nightmare for the residents. They have filed a review petition on April 1, 2013 as the last resort, but it promises no hope with the demolition men already knocking at the door.
"Why is the BMC drive shrouded in secrecy? There's something very fishy, they haven't issued tenders to demolish. There is definitely some kind of politician-builder nexus involved," said Rohit Malhotra, the head of Campa Cola Compound Residents Association.
Asks Ajay, another resident, "What if the Supreme Court stays the review petition? How can they demolish the flats without our case being heard.. why is the BMC in such a hurry to raze our flats?".
The apartments were constructed on land leased to Pure Drinks Ltd in 1955. In 1980, the BMC allowed the firm to develop the land for residential purpose. Without getting the plans approved, Pure Drinks along with builders Yusuf Patel, BK.Gupta and PSB Construction Co erected seven buildings, two of which were high-rise buildings of 17 and 20 storeys. During the construction period, the authorities issued notices to the builders to stop work. While the builders were fined, they paid the penalty and resumed work. After the construction was completed, nobody prevented the buyers from occupying their apartments or the buildings from forming co-operative housing societies.
Unaware of these violations, the residents bought the apartments believing that they would get the occupation certificates in due course, as was the norm 25 years ago. "Since 2005 the residents have been in litigation with BMC trying to defend their homes and save their families from being thrown on the streets. Why did the BMC not take action before people bought flats? asks Malhotra.
"Not only government officials have collected fines repeatedly over the last 25 years but also they have been collecting property taxes from the six societies," said another senior citizen, who did not want to be named.
The residents are planning a structural audit to ascertain whether the demolition drive will affect the occupants with legal flats. For if it does affect them, another legal battle against the civil bodies is in the pipeline.
"In the verdict, the Supreme Court has even condemned those portions of the structures that are within permissible limits for regularization. They have also included the water tanks and the lift rooms. While the demolition will destroy the homes of all the families with flats above the 5th floor, those below it will have to suffer without water and lifts besides tolerating dust and noise pollution created by the demolition," lamented another resident.
The litigation was necessitated as Pure Drinks Ltd sold off a smaller portion of leftover land - on which stands the now defunct Campa Cola factory - to Krishna Developers by misguiding the courts as well as the BMC.
"The perpetrators of the crime have a double advantage. The additional FSI that shall accrue as a result of the unreasonable demolition of area that is within the permissible limits, in the 7 residential buildings, de-housing the ignorant flat purchasers, will eventually go back to Pure Drinks Ltd and they will be able to once again encash the same by redeveloping that much area. It is absolutely shocking how the premier court of the country has chosen to reward the perpetrators of the crime and taken innocent flat purchasers to task, " said Malhotra.
Interestingly, the demolition order contrasts sharply with the laws applied to the Ulhasnagar buildings or the Mumbai slum dwellers and forest land encroachers who were permitted regularization if they could prove occupancy from 1995, he added.