As the deadline for the demolition of their flats nears, residents of Campa Cola Compound in Worli are knocking at every door to save their homes. One of the residents, Vidya Srinivas, vents her anguish in this article.
“You knew it was illegal when you bought the flat,” is a common refrain the residents of the Campa Cola Compound hear. “Impossible,” says 90-year-old freedom fighter Dr Asha Andyal. She registered her apartment on the 8th floor of Midtown Apartments on October 9, 1985, but was issued a demolition notice in April 2013.
Pradeep Kashtiya didn’t know that his building would be called illegal when he paid the stamp duty and registered his 7th floor Midtown Apartment in 1986.
The Miranis, Eliasbhai, the Sachetis and dozens of other families in the Campa Cola Compound are trying to make sense of this tyrannical order that will leave them homeless. Homes that they brought their brides into; homes that were once filled with pitter-patter of small feet, giggles and laughter of children; homes they planned to spend their twilight years in will be reduced to rubble by the BMC sledgehammer.
As far as they were concerned, the unscrupulous builders – Messrs BK Gupta, Yusuf Patel and PSB Constructions along with the devious developer Pure Drinks P Ltd – had shown them the sanctioned plans, commencement certificates and title deeds: all the documents necessary to prove the legitimacy of the construction in the Bombay of 1985.
Like honest middle class citizens, they duly registered their flats, paid the stamp duty to the state, and started paying property taxes, oblivious to the fact that the builders had amended the plans sanctioned for nine five-storey buildings and shifted the FSI around to load two towers of 17 and 20 floors and five buildings of more than 5 floors.
However, the residents were unaware that the builders were continuing to commit violations for which the BMC would issue a stop work notice and levy a fine of Rs 6,56,800 in 1986, towards regularisation. Also that the builders paid the fine but did not pay the revised penalty of Rs12,20,900.
Everything seemed fine except that the Occupation Certificate was missing and so was the conveyance deed. Ah that, “No Problem” promised the builders and greedy developer: “It will come in due course. No need to worry. And yes so will the water.”
Life continued. Societies were formed by 1991 and assurances for the OC, conveyance deeds and water were promises never to be delivered. Many of the original residents sold their flats. Did the new owners know about the illegalities? The new buyers got their documents checked by lawyers. The title deed was perfect, the commencement certificate was good and the sanctioned plans had an approval stamp on them.
The banks too after doing due diligence were satisfied with the documents and loans were sanctioned by nationalised banks like Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda, and private ones, including Citibank, ICICI, and HDFC Bank.
And how can these flats be called illegal? The state grabbed the hefty stamp duty and registration fees each time the flats were bought and sold. And they continue to enjoy the benefits of the property taxes paid every year. The BMC officials ignored the violations, and allowed the residents occupy the flats. Why didn’t the BMC and the state government warn the residents about the violations? Why are they blaming the occupants and punishing them? Why are the builders and the BMC not being punished?
The condemned residents demand those answers from the powers that be. Questions, they are sure, that will never be answered.