'KDMC ignored ownership rights to help illegal malls'

Information unearthed through the Right to Information Act reveals that the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) gave its nod to several big construction projects while ignoring the ownership rights of plots.

Over 3,500 pages of documents procured under RTI by a retired labour officer Jagdish Shah over a period of five years allege widespread illegalities in granting permission for new constructions in Kalyan, the eastern suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Dirty deeds: RTI activist Jagdish Shah says if the administration probes new constructions in Kalyan permitted in breach of ownership titles, hundreds of such violations would be uncovered; the RTI document obtained from KDMC about one such illicit project

MiD DAY has in its possession a set of 37 RTI responses since 2000 from the KDMC which state on the corporation letterhead that consent for many new constructions was given without considering the factual right of ownership of the plots on which the projects have been proposed and executed.

Shah said, “This is a mockery of the system which has been manipulated to give a free hand to the builder lobby to encroach and construct mega malls and residential complexes whose value runs into crores. On one hand rightful owners are deprived of their rehabilitation right, on the other gullible buyers are left in the lurch once the illegalities are proven and the authorities start issuing demolition notices or the structure simply collapses like the recent case in Mumbra.”

Free rein
Shah said these were the findings of just one individual and hundreds of such violations would be unearthed if government agencies dedicated a team to do so. “Giving permission to builders to construct buildings by ignoring ownership title is giving them a free hand to do whatever they please, with scant regard for what is right and legal,” he said.

Citing the example of a recently constructed mall in Kalyan, Shah said he was able to track down the plot’s property papers from 1937 till recently when the property was purchased for Rs 8.16 crore in 2007. This indicates that the development plans and the deed are fabricated and the permission for construction is based on a bogus title, he said.

“In this particular case, the builder who initiated the construction with his own contractor has played with the loopholes in the system. It is vital to understand that no civic authority can give a green signal for construction on any property to anyone besides the rightful owner. Such a violation is not permissible under the law,” he said.

‘Will start probe’
When contacted, KDMC Commissioner Ramnath Sonawane said that if the RTI responses obtained by the activist allege that construction permissions were given by his officers without considering ownership titles, they merit a full-blown investigation.

“If these allegations are proven, I will initiate criminal proceedings against any officer found guilty. No proposal for construction is considered if the land title is not clear. If any allegation is made on the basis of RTI it amounts to a serious allegation, which has to be thoroughly scrutinised and investigated,” said Sonawane. He added that the activist’s motive also ought to be verified, as he may have a personal vendetta prompting him to file for damaging information. 

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