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Mumbai is now crowned as CAPITAL OF CORRUPTION AND DISHONESTY especially in the construction business, perhaps, because of the highest property rates and need of the hour of a common man to buy a shelter for his family.

The gullible buyer, however, is unaware of the facts that later, he may have to encounter the issues like delayed possession, broken promises, breach of trust and cheating, unfair trade practice, deficiency in service, abandonment of projects by the Developers half way, illegal constructions, blatant violation of acts, laws and rules, selling parking, refuge and other free of FSI areas and sale of illegal floors that are common ills these days in the Financial Capital of India. 

This is undoubtedly possible with most powerful and sweet confederacy between the Developers and their Chartered Accountants, Architects, Engineers and Advocates, Local Corporators, Politicians, Underworld Dons, Civic Officials and Local Goons who are on a lookout to garner the fortune on the earth of our beloved Mumbai.

With real estate prices skyrocketing, Developers make use of unscrupulous officials of certain Govt. and Civic Depts., Building Proposal and Building & Factory Department to usurp prime space and make unauthorised alterations to existing structures, misuse of compulsory open space etc. Crore of rupees by way of unlawful gratification change hands in such shady deals and the innocent citizens pay for them with their life & property.

Letters or complaints sent to the Vigilance Department of BMC complaining about illegal constructions turn to deaf ears as any action taken by them against the erring Developers or Builders shall render huge loss to the Civic Officials with regard to the downpour of unaccounted revenues under the table.

The major perpetrators are the inspecting personnel of the Building & Factory Department of concerned Ward Office. The Engineers of this Department never bother to keep a watch on illegal constructions. On several occasions, it has been noticed that the BMC starts an eye-washed proceedings against the erring Developers and the scandals die its natural deaths.

With the realty prices being exceptionally high, Developers doing illegal constructions do not mind paying large sums to the ward staff to look the other way. A posting in the Building & Factories Department is lucratively prized as huge amounts stealthily change hands for the betterment of all concerned.

There are numerous examples of unlawful constructions mushroomed in the City of Dreams. Many hotels take permission to put up the ostensibly temporary monsoon sheds, but they never dismantle them. The regular payments are pocketed by the concerned staff to overlook such illegal edifice.

In one of the prime suburbs of Mumbai, one activist has been opposing an illegal extension made by a shopkeeper next to his shop. The activist said that if the shopkeeper were to buy this illegally occupied 150 sq. ft commercial area, it would have cost him at least Rs. 2.50 crore. But by giving a few lakhs of rupees as bribe to the local ward staff, he’s enjoying prime space at throw away share.

The Dy. Municipal Commissioner anonymously stated that the Ward Officers have no fear because as a policy of the Corporation, they cannot be transferred out of Mumbai. The Government should amend the law so that it becomes possible to transfer a Ward Officer; only then will they act vigilantly against illegal constructions.

He further added that because of such escape routes in employment rules and despite strict instructions from the Municipal Commissioner, Officials of the Building & Factory Department are not taking any action against illegal structures coming up in the city under the guise of repairs permission.

Usually, the buildings which are either in a dilapidated state or need urgent repairs, the landlords of these buildings and small-time Developers who are always on their toe to take advantage of this and apply for repair permission BMC. Once the permission is received, they start raising upper floors while repair work in the lower floors is going on.

No plans are prepared by the Architects and submitted to the Building Proposals Department and no sanctions are sought for Commencement or the Completion Certificates. Every stage of raising illegal floors is done hand-in-glove with Civic Officials, who are well aware of the on-going work.

Such buildings are not only a burden on the existing civic infrastructure like water, garbage, sewerage but also poses danger to the lives of those middle class families residing in them. No scientific approach or engineering aspect is followed while illegally constructing these additional floors.

However, when the Building & Factory Department at the ward level receives any complaint from the neighbouring buildings in the area, officials just send a notice to the Landlord and the Developer to simply put it on record with assurance of no follow-up thereafter.

However, this is done with enough time given to the offenders to approach the Court. The accused party not only approaches the Court well before time but also manages to forge the documents to get a stay order to avoid any action. All this while, the Building Proposals Department is not aware of what is cooking at the ward level nor have they time to spare for non-remunerative activities.

In South Mumbai, especially B, C and E ward, there are hundreds of such old and risk prone buildings which seek repairs permissions and simultaneously carries out full-fledged construction of additional floors without obtaining proper sanctions. This all happens right under the nose of the concerned Building & Factory Department. Officials are well versed with the situation. Even the Ward Officer is aware in some case but never acts, said an Official, requesting anonymity.

One more example is given as to how an originally ground plus one structure at most busy and commercial locality of Masjid Bunder has been constructed where all the applicable norms are blatantly flouted and has rapidly risen to seven storeys. Shockingly, construction work for two more floors is on.

All this has happened right under the nose of the Civic Officials. The Society got managed to get an illegal water connection for the illicit construction. Earlier, the residents of adjoining buildings had alleged that the seven-storey building was drawing water by pumping out the water from already existed pipelines.

The building, which was only ground plus one structure until 2008, had sought permission for repairs. Under this pretext, the Developers added floors illegally and now it has all civic amenities like drainage lines, water and electricity connection.

The land on which the building stands is owned by a Muslim Trust. The Officials of the B Ward are well aware that there have been several complaints against the construction of an unlawful building. Even the Engineers from the Building & Factory Department of B Ward are aware about this illegal construction.

Assistant Commissioner, BMC had approached City Civil Court early this year against the Developer and a stop-work notice was also issued. However, the concerned departments did not take any cognizance and ignored the Court’s Status Quo Order in the matter and the Developer went ahead with the said construction.

The Municipal Commissioner had ordered an inquiry and had asked all departments like Legal, Building Proposals and Building & Factory to control such illegal activities. But, the rules remained only on paper.

The height of mismanagement at BMC is that no one acted on the complaints received. It was learnt that the residents of neighbouring buildings repeatedly visited the concerned departments with complaint letters about the said unauthorized construction but they were turned away, said a B Ward Staffer.

All are now well aware that the BMC shall march forward to demolish illegal floors of the Campa Cola Buildings from 12th November, 2013 following the Court Order as the Supreme Court has allowed the flat owners time only till 11th November, 2013 to find alternative accommodation. The demolition work will begin with the razing of internal walls of the unauthorised flats. It is claimed by the Officials of BMC that occupants of the other flats would not be affected by the demolition work.  

A local MLA of the Bhendi Bazaar– Mohammed Ali Road area says that it is an open secret that Civic Officials are hand-in-glove with the Developers to earn quick money. Further, what is lacking is quality control while the buildings are constructed subjecting to collapse of such buildings prematurely. There is a need for constant quality control at every stage of construction. But there are instances when Developers compromise on quality in order to cut costs.

It is a sorry state of affair that due to absence of stern and punitive measures including imprisonment against the erring officials of BMC working in sensitive departments like Building Proposal and Building & Factory, the unauthorized constructions have engulfed the entire Mumbai. All kinds of elements have entered the construction industry and not all of them give due weight to quality. If a structure collapses within a few years of construction, then it is certainly because of poor quality of material used.

It is the need of the hour that emphasis should be laid on quality control right from the choice of building materials, maintenance of construction norms and usage of the structure and no changes or alterations should be permitted in any structure without seeking technical opinion of a qualified Structural Engineer.