The office is on the sixth floor of Malhotra House in Fort. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
The office is on the sixth floor of Malhotra House in Fort. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

On Monday afternoon, the rain made its way inside the offices of the Divisional Joint Registrar of Co-operative Societies, located on the sixth floor of Malhotra House in Fort. Office bearers and the public at large waded ankle-length waters, as they tried (and failed) to go about their work inside the office.

The waterlogged office
The waterlogged office

The staff had to hurriedly arrange for plastic sheets and buckets in order to protect the computers and passage area within the office. Lawyers and public present at the office said a notice had been put up stating that the hearings slated for yesterday have been postponed for a next date. Many were called in again for the hearings on September 6.

Still wet
Advocate Vinod Sampat said, "While the staff made attempts to protect files and computers by putting the plastic sheets, the papers and file were still getting wet."

Insiders informed mid-day that this is the first time that the office was in such a messy condition. An officer said the water started seeping into the office due to non-stop rain and some repair work on the terrace.

Neha Sali, a junior lawyer said, "I could see the water seeping from the ceiling and the entire floor was full of water. Even the public who had come to get their grievances resolved were uncomfortable. The electricity supply had to be cut off to prevent any untoward incident."

Irony trickles in
The office was also mired in an unlikely irony yesterday: the authority that ensures housing societies abide by rules has been operating from the same space, even though its lease agreement ended years ago.

"The irony is that this the same department which directs cooperative societies in the city to abide by the rules and regulations under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 and they (office bearers) themselves are helpless, when it comes to adhering to norms." This, Sampat explained is because, "Instead of [the office] being shifted to an alternate place, the case has gone to the small causes court and the matter is subjudice."

"The cooperative court, which was also operating earlier from a rented premises at Ballard Pier, vacated the office after its lease agreement ended and shifted to the third floor of Old Customs House," said Sampat.

The ground plus six-storey building is owned by M/s Malhotra Shaving Products Limited, who have their registered office on the fifth floor of the building. Naval Shinde, head of Legal and Human Resources for the company said, "The lease agreement for the cooperative department came to an end in 2003 and since then, the matter is pending before the small causes court and even the Bombay high court. As per the court's directive, the co-operative department is depositing a monthly sum of R5.40 lakh in the court."

Shinde added, "We have around 50 tenants in the building and are getting peanuts in rent, as the tenants have been around for decades. We have even approached BMC and paid stipulated fees of over Rs 2 lakh for putting up a temporary tarpaulin sheet to prevent the rainwater from entering. Also, a few lakhs have been spent earlier for having tar sheets put on the terrace for protection from rain. How much more can we do with no support coming in from any corner? Still, the workers on the terrace are doing their best."

The other side
Dr Vijay Jade, recently appointed commissioner for the Cooperation and Registrar of Cooperative Societies, remained unavailable for comment. Chandrakant Dalvi, the former commissioner however told mid-day, "I am aware that some litigation is pending in the court, but I cannot say much, as I am not handling the portfolio anymore."

Divisional deputy registrar Dyaneshwar Dongre said, "This is the first time we have faced such a problem and it is only because of the non-stop rain in the last few days. We have taken required precaution to ensure that no public inconvenience is caused. I am sure the problem will be solved soon, as the workers are doing their best to prevent rain water from seeping into the office from the terrace." When asked about the litigation, he refused to comment stating that the matter is subjudice.

Moving soon
A senior officer added, "We are in the process of putting up a proposal for shifting our office to a new location a few meters away from the existing building. It will be sent to the government soon and we are sure some alternate arrangement will be made soon in a government building nearby." Advocate Sampat suggested that, "The government should have these offices in each and every municipal ward to help the public."


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