A 13-storey highrise in Mumbai’s Bandra has exposed much of what’s wrong with the city’s slum rehabilitation plan. The illegal building was permitted to come up even as it lacks the basic permit required for construction activity, although the office of the Slum Rehabiliation Authority (SRA) is just 10 minutes away and the Nirmal Nagar Police Station is barely 100 metres from the construction site.
Official documents reviewed by The Indian Express reveal that the government machinery woke up to the violations only after repeated complaints from the affected slum dwellers. According to these documents, it was only on August 29 this year that the Nirmal Nagar police station lodged a criminal case against the developers, following a written complaint submitted by the SRA.
The SRA project, which began in 2004, is being undertaken by the Amikrupa Land Developers Private Limited — a part of Kamala Group. The police have booked the firm’s directors — Ramesh Gowani and Ravi Bhandari — under the stringent Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966.
“In their correspondence to the SRA on July 4, 2016 and July 11, 2016, the developers have said that they constructed the building without obtaining even the commencement certificate, since they were under pressure from the slum dwellers,” says the FIR. “The developers have further conveyed that they were willing to bear the regularisation charges.”
But the slum dwellers have questioned the developers’ defence. “We had already initiated proceedings for termination of the developers on account of illegalities and non-payment of rent in September 2015,” said Tushar Khetal, secretary, New Safalya SRA Cooperative Housing Society. “The developers haven’t even paid the rent against the temporary accommodation to the eligible slum dwellers,” he said.
When contacted, Gowani initially said: “I am in a meeting. It would be better if you discuss the matter with the SRA.” But later, the Kamala Group, admitted the illegalities in the project: “We are willing to rectify these and have conveyed this already to the SRA.”
Earlier, the SRA had had issued a notice to the developers. “When the developers did not respond to this notice in a satisfactory fashion, we filed an official complaints to the police (on August 22),” said S S Bhise, Secretary, SRA.