Mumbai builder cooks up fake railway station, bridge to sell property

Aug 23, 2013, 07:47 IST | Varun Singh

Lodha states its upcoming Casa Bella project is connected to Usarghar station with a pedestrian bridge. But after three hours of legwork on the Panvel-Diva tracks, we realised that there was no such station

Buyers beware: Builders are getting too inventive to sell their projects to homebuyers in this slump of a realty market.

Mumbai's Lodha builders cook up fake railway station, bridge
Leading customers off track: This old rusted board is the only sign of a railway station in the area, which is a stone’s throw from the Lodha project. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Since 2009, Lodha developer has been selling Casa Bella, its project near the Kalyan-Shil Road in Dombivli on two prime claims: that it is close to the railway station of Usarghar and that it is connected with a foot over-bridge.

Mumbai's Lodha builders cook up fake railway station, bridge

It turns out both are figments of the builder’s profit-driven imagination. Neither is there a railway station by the name of Usarghar, nor any such bridge for pedestrians.

Mumbai's Lodha builders cook up fake railway station, bridge
False promises: The builder has advertised the property’s proximity to a railway station that does not exist. (Right) Datiwali station, which is around 3 km from Usarghar. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

When MiD DAY went to take a look at the project, we realised the hoax. Here’s what happened on our search for the elusive station:

Mystery station
We went to Diva station, presuming it to be the closest to our destination, and asked the booking clerk for a ticket to Usarghar station. He gave us a blank stare -- there was no such station. He then handed us tickets for Panvel, asking us to find our way from there.

But by the time we got the tickets, the train was gone and the next one was to arrive after 4 pm. The stationmaster told us we could go to Kopar and take a train to Panvel. We took his advice.

We were told that our Vasai Road-Panvel train would make an unscheduled halt at the Agasan station -- between Datiwali and Nilje stations -- where some development project by Lodha was under way. Upon making some enquiries, we learned that some locals call Agasan station as Usarghar.

Resolute, we boarded the train at Kopar around 1 pm and expected it to make the unscheduled halt that would get us to our destination.

The train didn’t stop -- Datiwali passed us by and the train halted only at Nilje. Between these two stations, however, we caught a blurred vision of the under-construction Casa Bella whizzing us by, near Shil Road.

We got down at Nilje, and asked someone if we could get a train back that would stop at the Usarghar station -- hoping the railway clerk could be wrong -- but there was none.

So we set on some gruelling legwork to find the station near the project.

4-km walk
After walking around four kms from Nilje towards Casa Bella, we found a board buried amid forlorn country declaring Agasan station. Four passenger trains halt at this “station”.

Bang opposite this unscheduled stop, to the west of the tracks, we spotted the project Lodha has been talking about for the past few years. There was no pedestrian bridge connecting this station with the project, no platform, nor were there any indications that something of the sort would come up anytime soon.

Still, it goes without saying that getting to this place at the back of nowhere is not for the mild-hearted traveller. Less than a handful of trains stop at this non-station. It’s just a random stop that trains make to help some of the villagers in the area who have to get somewhere.

While most realty experts chose not to say anything
about the project, fearing judgment from the builder fraternity, one requesting anonymity say, “This is the reason why we need a regulator, to step up and take such builders who deceive buyers to task.”

The claim
‘Casa Bella is perfectly placed on the Kalyan-Shil Road, with Usarghar Railway Station attached and connected by a pedestrian over-bridge’

The reality
There is no station, platform or over-bridge in sight. The nearest station, Nilje, is 4 km away.

Lodha v/s MMRDA
A spokesperson for Lodha developer said, “Usarghar railway station is part of an MMRDA plan for the region. At the time that Casa Bella was launched, customers were informed of the plan and given a booklet which provided details of the same. The plan recommends three new stations on the Diva-Panvel route -- Usargarh, Narivali and Bamali. Of these, Usarghar is proposed in the first phase.”

But MMRDA Commissioner UPS Madan dismissed the claim.

“We are not building any such station. This might have been part of some study and plans made for expansion in the near future. But it is wrong on the part of any developer to promote their projects on the basis of this,” he said.

Later in the evening, a Lodha spokesperson added, “The station is proposed on the Diva-Panvel line by the railways. The appropriate authority may be in a better position to answer your query and help to expedite things. We are anyway following up with them.”

Lodha builders, fake railway station
Lodha’s claims on its website

‘Located in Dombivli, just 25 minutes from Thane and 15 minutes from corporate hubs in Navi Mumbai like DAKC, Siemens, MIDC and Capgemini, Casa Bella is perfectly placed on the Kalyan-Shil Road, with Usarghar Railway Station attached and connected by a pedestrian over-bridge. Casa Bella is also a 20-minute drive from the proposed new international airport.’

Legal speak
Advocate Vinod Sampat said, “Builders should only promise things they can deliver in their projects.”

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