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With possibility of early LS polls, govt cosies up to builders

Netas across the country have recognised that as an upshot of the climate change in the corridors of power, the Lok Sabha election season may happen sooner than expected. So, state units are busy preparing the ground and wooing potential vote banks. Builders here believe they are the beneficiaries of a similar exercise kicked off by Prithviraj Chavan, when he was seen directing bureaucrats to speed up resolution of pending matters vis-à-vis the industry. 

This happened during a meeting chaired by the CM with office bearers of Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry (MCHI) present at Sahyadri state guesthouse last week.

As a matter of course, representatives of the apex body of developers broached a host of issues. But, the CM’s response, according to them, was quite unprecedented. He was asking senior officials to get things done in an unmitigated tone, something builders had never witnessed in the past. It was clearly an indication that prospects of early elections had shaped the government’s approach towards the lobby, said a source.

The CM asked officials to respond to almost every subject raised by the developers. For instance, when MCHI functionaries made a case for early clearance of building plans, BMC commissioner Sitaram Kunte said soon the whole process of approval would go online. It would become simpler to track the progress of applications, he said.

On the matter of high-rises, developers said the current criteria of forwarding proposals of buildings beyond 70 metres in height for clearances from the fire department and high-rise committee should be changed. The national building code has suggested different norms and those should be followed, they contended. On this, Kunte asked for details of those provisions. Currently, the ladders with the fire department can only go up to 70 metres and it was justifiable to go through the proposals, he said.

The topic was discussed at some length, as developers suggested they could always opt for best available in-built firefighting systems in buildings. If the government was worried it could organise a structural audit by a committee of experts comprising people of IIT and VJTI. Their recommendations and verdict should be accepted by the authorities, the MCHI office bearers said.

Issues raised by developers
>> The government should not insist for adherence to a directive by ministry of environment & forests (MoEF), as no other state follows this. The directive deals with various no-objection certificates from environment department.

>> The system for NA (non-agricultural) land clearance should be streamlined, as it requires 40 days at this time. Nashik district collector has made it available online.

>> Clearance by Urban Land Ceiling department should be speeded up removing certain bottlenecks as it takes considerable time to get NOC on change of user, change in use, change in ownership, loading of FSI and TDR.

>> The state should clarify its stand on certain issues related to rental housing as approximately 120 proposals are pending at various levels.

>> The state should also speed up the process of merger of A, B and C category buildings in Mumbai, as there is no logic in treating these old and dilapidated structures with different yardsticks. While A category buildings are those constructed prior to 1940, B category ones were built between 1940 and 1950, and those in the C category were constructed in 1950-69. Govt officials said determination of the matter is in the final stages. 

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