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City anchor: Architects,engineers present ‘corrupt’ picture of civic officials

Greedy civic officials,lack of services despite huge payments,extortion by politicians and RTI activists,and a deaf administration these were a few of the issues raised by a forum of architects and engineers associated with BMC at a meeting Monday to address concerns over bureaucratic hurdles and delays in approvals for building projects.

Greedy civic officials,lack of services despite huge payments,extortion by politicians and RTI activists,and a deaf administration — these were a few of the issues raised by a forum of architects and engineers associated with BMC at a meeting Monday to address concerns over bureaucratic hurdles and delays in approvals for building projects.

More than 2,800 members of the Practicing Engineers Architects and Town Planners Associations (PEATA) have now planned to approach Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to complain about the lacunae in the system. According to PEATA’s estimates,over 800 proposals have been delayed by BMC over the past six months,whereas a file should be approved within 60 days as per BMC rules.

At a seminar organised to discuss alternatives to expedite approval mechanism,these architects,engineers and urban planners were critical of the existing mechanism to seek approval for residential and commercial projects. From pleading for lost building proposal files,‘begging’ for concessions and reluctantly surrendering to BMC agents,architects have to face a harrowing ordeal to get approvals,said Shirish Sukhatme,president of PEATA.

Hinting at how the long and burdensome process,which often includes greasing a few palms,is ultimately burdening the end customer,PEATA’s members discussed the lack of accountability in the civic administration.

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“The civic administration delays every proposal by over six months on an average,which affects construction projects. In addition to lack of professionalism amongst BMC officials,there is no accountability of the work which they have to accomplish,giving them a free hand to approve or disapprove proposals,” said another architect.

PEATA’s grievances include civic administration sleeping over files,barter of discretionary powers,threat of action and stop-work notices,puzzling overlapping conditions,multiple NOCs,new circulars and policies announced every day,long waits outside cabins of officials,high premium deposits and fees and accountability.

“Each BMC department,including building proposal,fire,traffic,solid waste management and development planning,takes months to process files,” said Pravin Kanekar,convener and former president of PEATA.

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The forum has suggested a single window clearance system. “When BMC is paid crores in fungible FSI premium and other fees related to approvals,at least one can hope for a clear,transparent and quick approval system for housing and commercial projects,” said Sukhatme.

The civic administration has raked in more than Rs 1,000 crore as premium from developers seeking to utilise 35 per cent extra floor space index (FSI) for residential projects. The premium,termed as “fungible FSI” in the construction lobby,is expected to become the third largest fund raiser for the civic body.

The new Development Control Rules,which allow for fungible FSI,were implemented by BMC more than a year ago. The policy,which curtails the municipal commissioner’s discretionary powers to grant building concessions to developers,was aimed at making the building approval system more transparent.

First published on: 24-04-2013 at 12:54:45 am
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