At least 600 families in Dahisar are living every Mumbaikar’s worst nightmare — they gave up their homes for redevelopment in hopes of going back to a larger, grander version, but have instead spent years languishing in tiny flats in far-flung places with no sign of their buildings ever being completed.
Residents of Ujwal CHS have waited for the past 6 years to move into the skyscraper they had been promised within 2 years of vacating their homes for redevelopment
mid-day visited 10 such housing societies in the area (see ‘Ten cases’), where the old buildings were demolished years ago, but new buildings are yet to come up in their place. In some places, the construction was over five years behind schedule, while in others, work hadn’t even begun. The reasons for this are varied, but in the end, it’s always the residents who suffer most.
72-year-old Sushil Desai vacated his flat for redevelopment 2.5 years ago, but the work has not even begun yet.
Take 72-year-old Sushil Desai, for instance, a resident of Girnar CHS, a building with 32 flats and 12 commercial establishments. The building had been evacuated about 2.5 years ago and subsequently demolished for redevelopment, but even today, the only thing that to come up on the plot are weeds. Worse, the builder has backtracked on his promise to pay the residents Rs 15,000 as monthly rent. Senior citizen Desai was forced to come out of retirement to be able to pay the rent himself. “The developer stopped paying rent a after couple of months. This forced me to resume my accounting services,” said Desai.
He further alleged that the developer had defaulted on the agreement and they had now started negotiations with another builder. He is not sure when he will finally be able to move back into his home.
The developer who defaulted on the agreement, Ritesh Shah of Rite Developers, said, “We gave up the project a year ago, as the proposal was no longer economically viable due to an unforeseen issue - two roads on either side of the plot are due for widening, thus reducing the plot size.”
'Hopeful till the end'
Nitin D’Silva, a local activist, who has been fighting for those affected by stalled redevelopment plans, said, “Many owners have died waiting for their flats, hopeful till the last breath. A majority of the flat owners are senior citizens, who fear that one day they will have no roof over their heads. At least 600 such aggrieved families are there.”
Similar charges were made by a member of Ujwal CHS, who did not wish to be named. 59 families in the building vacated their homes with the dream of moving into the skyscraper they had been promised, overlooking a nearby pond. They were told the project would be done in 2 years, but over six years have passed, and the project is still unfinished.
“The decision to redevelop the building was not unanimous. Those opposing had their water connections cut and doors broken. At present, we have zero clarity on the project,” said the resident.
Redevelopment of another building, Nirav CHS, is currently stuck at the fifth floor, nearly five years after it was demolished in February 2011. The building was to be a 7-storey structure, and has all the required clearances, but all work has come to a halt. For the past 10 months, the residents have not even been paid rent. Already, one deadline has come and gone (2013), and the builder extended the deadline to the end of this month, but the project is unlikely to finish by then.
“An RTI response has revealed that the fault lies with the builder and not with the government agencies in charge of giving permissions, as we were led to believe. The builder had promised to pay a rent of Rs 5 lakh per month to the society, which was to be distributed among residents. We have assured of possession by December end, but this seems a far-fetched promise,” said Dattatreya Chitre, treasurer of the housing society.
Developers for both Ujwal CHS (Sandeep Sheth) and for Nirav CHS (Shabir Chunawala, promoter of Chunawala Construction) blamed changes in the BMC’s FSI policies for escalating the financial burden. “We are aware of the grievances of the tenants and are periodically increasing their rent. We are striving to finish the project by the end of next year and handover the promised flats” said Sheth.
Meanwhile, Chunawala alleged that one of the society members had also backtracked after giving his consent for the development. “I had to purchase his flat by paying him double the market price just to commence the work, which had already been stalled for over two years, owing to the change in policy. All members have been paid 12 months’ rent in advance and the remaining two storeys of the building shall be completed in the next six months,” said Chunawala.
Builder behind bars
The Sai Vishram building went under redevelopment in September 2010 and was supposed to be completed by 2013. However, only the basement and plinth are ready so far, and the residents haven’t even been paid rent for a year. The builder, Uday Surve is now behind bars for cheating residents of this building and hundreds more across the city.
Local leaders speak
Local MLA Manisha Chaudhary said she was aware of the matter and was holding regular hearings with aggrieved residents. “In many cases, the residents were misled by the Project Management Consultants (PMC), who are brought on the projects as a mandatory requirement. These people propose unrealistic plans which the society members lap up in greed. Later, though, this makes the projects unfeasible. There are also other issues like internal problems within the society, discrepancies in the conveyance deed, etc,” she said.
Member of Parliament (Mumbai North) Gopal Shetty said that people should take their constituency’s elected representative into confidence before embarking on redevelopment. He added, “Once the agreements are signed and registered with government agencies, it is their duty to protect the interests of victims, by ensuring that the legal documents are honoured. If court cases drag on for years, whom can the aggrieved parties approach for relief?”
According to property expert Advocate Vinod Sampat, the biggest problem is inadequate planning at the initial stages, along with blind faith shown by residents. “The best thing is to hire a reliable advocate to process the papers and also do a background check of the builder to ascertain his credentials and track record.” he said.
mid-day visited a total of 10 such residential redevelopment sites in Dahisar where work has fallen far behind schedule:
1 Girnar Society
2 Parag Society
3 Devdutt Society
4 Shashank Shilp Society
5 Bharti Society
6 Sai Vishram Society
7 Ujwal society
8 Nirav Society
9 Avdhomber Society
10 Chandralekha Society