Subscription Subscription
Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Mumbai A week after Vasai landslide slum mafia back in business

Mumbai: A week after Vasai landslide, slum mafia back in business

Updated on: 19 July,2022 08:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Diwakar Sharma , Shirish Vaktania |

Following recent incidents of landslides, mid-day launches an investigation to see how chawl-builder mafias build unauthorised structures on dangerous land adjacent to hills in Vasai or forest land in Kandivli, Mulund

Mumbai: A week after Vasai landslide, slum mafia back in business

Construction work on a plot with survey number 116 in Vasai; (right) construction site of Sundaram Builders and Developers (on plot number 146-2) where an undercover reporter visited on Sunday. Pics/Hanif Patel

Diwakar Sharma, Shirish Vaktania and Anurag Kamble

Landslides in Mumbai and its outskirts have become common since the past couple of years. On an average, around 30 people residing on hill tops have lost their lives to such incidents each year since 2000. In one of the recent cases, a 35-year-old man and his teen daughter died in a landslide in Vasai. While it has barely been a week, land mafia are running their business as usual and selling plots and homes close to the site of the landslide. mid-day visited several such places across the city to see how the mafia are operating and what they have to offer.

Also read: Mumbai rains: Vasai landslide exposes builder-chawl mafia

Madhav, an agent from Gokul Nagar in Kandivli East; (right)  Ankit Singh, one of the owners of Aarohi Realty in VasaiMadhav, an agent from Gokul Nagar in Kandivli East; (right)  Ankit Singh, one of the owners of Aarohi Realty in Vasai

Apart from Vasai, where chawl-builder mafias are thriving due to civic inaction despite plaints from activists and politicians, areas close to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park—Kandivli and Mulund—had the same situation, with mafias erecting illegal structures and selling them to unsuspecting citizens from low-income group. Some builders even went on to offer land or houses on forest land at a cheap price of Rs 50,000 with assurance that the structures won’t be razed by civic officials. 

Vasai Circuit

An advertisement by a builderAn advertisement by a builder

In Vasai, land mafias have offices close to the railway station to attract potential buyers. When approached, they talk about upcoming Metro, smart city plans, easy transport facilities, etc. to lure customers into making a deal. 

mid-day visited the office of one such builder—Sundaram Builders and Developers—in the area.

Correspondent: Will I get a hut in this area?
Varsha Soni (builder): Do you want to visit the site? We have different projects on Vasai-Naigaon link road. What’s your budget? The price will depend on the size of the room—Rs 5 lakh for 200-sqft 1 Room-Kitchen, Rs 7 lakh for 300-sqft 1BHK and Rs 9 lakh for 400-sqft 2BHK. And if you want to decorate your 2BHK, then it will cost you around Rs 11 lakh. 
C: How far are the railway stations from the site?
S: Both Vasai Road and Naigaon stations are almost at equal distance and share auto rickshaws are available.
C: Can I check the property documents?
S: We have the 7/12 extract, you can cross check that. We have purchased the plot and are developing it. 
C: What about toilet, bathroom, drainage system?
S: Everything will be provided. You can look at a sample room to get a better idea. My assistant will take you to the site. 
C: Is there any room for negotiation?
S: Yes, definitely. Please go and check out the property first and then we can have a discussion. 

Varsha Soni from  Sundaram Builders and DevelopersVarsha Soni from  Sundaram Builders and Developers

Soni’s assistant then took the correspondent to the site where construction for a 2BHK was going on and then him brought back to the office. 
C: I have seen the property and rooms. How should I make the payment?
S: You will be given 5 years to make the full payment. We can give you a 2BHK for Rs 10 lakh. In fact, kuch kam kar denge. 
C: What is the procedure to get a room?
S: Once you make the down payment, we will show you the plot and start getting the documents in order. You can even get them verified. 
C: Who will be the parties in the property agreement?
S: The plot is registered in the name of Sundaram Builders. We deal directly with buyers.
C: What’s the survey number of the plot I just visited? 
S: Its survey number is 146 (2).
C: Will buying a house here be a good investment?
S: Yes, of course! You can get Rs 3,000 rent per month for a 400-sqft 2BHK. 
C: What about water and electricity?
S: We have boring water which is available round the clock. Municipal water will also come, but it will take some more time. 
C: How many rooms are currently ready?
S: We have 44 such rooms ready and some people have already started living there. 

A landslide took place in the chawl at Wagralpada area of Rajawali in Vasai which claimed two lives. Pics/Hanif PatelA landslide took place in the chawl at Wagralpada area of Rajawali in Vasai which claimed two lives. Pics/Hanif Patel

mid-day visited another realtor—Aarohi Realty—in the area to get a better idea of how the system operates. When the correspondent enquired about a chawl room, the agent showed a construction site close to Naigaon station and one Ankit Singh was present to attend to visitors.

Aarohi Realty’s officeAarohi Realty’s office

Ankit: What kind of room are you looking for? 1BHK or 2BHK?
Correspondent: What is the cost for a 400-sqft room?
A: Around R7.5 lakh, but we will give you an initial discount of Rs 50,000.
C: How long will it take for the property to be built and how will I have to pay?
A: First, you need to pay Rs 1,101 to book the property and then another Rs 50,000 to make the sale agreement. We will start construction work only after you pay Rs 1 lakh. So, if you pay Rs 1 lakh today, your room will be ready in the next 15-20 days. You can pay the rest over five years, without any interest.
C: Can I verify the documents of the plot? 
A: You will get everything at my office. 
C: Is it a private or a forest land?
A: We have purchased the whole plot of 30 guntha from villagers and will construct around 35 to 40 rooms here. Abhi offer chal raha hain, khareed li jiye. 
C: I can see raw material here but no construction, why?
A: It’s been raining heavily so we have stopped the work for some time. 
C: Wasn’t there a chawl collapse here a few days ago where people died? 
A: Haha! Chawl nahi gira tha sir, there was a landslide. If the hill falls on the structure, what can a builder do? That is a legal plot too and yet there is enquiry now. That’s the reason the work is stalled now. We cannot place even one brick without a nod from civic officials. 

Manoj Singh Manoj Singh 

(After the site visit, the correspondent was taken back to the realtor’s office for further negotiation when Ankit’s elder brother Manoj Singh took over) 
Manoj: If you purchase a room, we will get you ghar patti, light meter, water connection, modular kitchen, water purifier, sliding window, safety grill, tiles on wall, tiles and green marble in kitchen and many more facilities. There will also be a 6-ft lane right in front of your door. You will also get boring water but will have to buy drinking water. 
C: how long will it take for me to get documents if I make the down payment?
M: Once 90 per cent of the total payment is made, we will start giving the documents to you. Electricity meter and ghar patti will be in your name. 
C: Is it your own property? How can I check the documents?
M: We have purchased it from someone. We will give you the 7/12 extract to get it verified.
C: What is the survey number of the plot?
M: It’s 116. 
C: I noticed construction work is on hold. Why? 
M: It’s because of the recent landslide here.
C: Hope there is no such issue with this plot?
M: Nahi, nahi. That plot was right next to the hill. We don’t make chawls like that. We buy land near main roads, not near hills.
C: I heard 3-4 people died in the landslide?
M: No, no. Two people died. Those chawls were built around 8 years ago and this is the first time that such an incident took place. 
And because of this, there is some enquiry on the civic officials too. That’s why construction work is put on hold. If madam (referring to the additional commissioner of Vasai-Virar City Municipal Corporation) is not here, where will we get permission to start the work? We are waiting for the situation to die down. We hope it will get better in a week or 10 days.
C:  Then I will visit again after 10 days.
M: Book it quick, rates may increase again.

Approx. no. of families living on hill slopes in the city

Forest land for sale

Agent Amannath SharmaAgent Amannath Sharma

mid-day also wanted to check how properties are being erected and sold on forest land and visited an agent, Murtaza, who also runs Bajrang Flour Mill Shop at Gokul Nagar in Kandivli East. 

Agent MurtazaAgent Murtaza

Correspondent: I want to buy a house on a hilltop, do you have any such plot or property? 
Murtaza: What is your budget? Forest areas now have their boundaries but you will get a room there.
C: What papers do I need to get a house?
M: We need your ration card and voters’ ID to transfer the property in your name.
C: Will I get a house receipt from the forest department or the BMC?
M: We will give you power of attorney. The last government made a rule that those who have a house here since 2011 will get room if their house gets demolished. But there is a risk about whether you will get a flat if the house is demolished by forest officers. We will only build the room for you, the rest of the responsibility is yours.  

Chawls on forest land at KandivliChawls on forest land at Kandivli

Murtaza then sent another agent, Amannath Sharma, to show the correspondent the location where he was offering a 200-sqft forest land. 
Sharma: I can construct the room at any place on the forest land. There are two types of rooms—one with a forest receipt based on the survey conducted by the forest department and another is without receipt. If you want one with the receipt, it will cost you Rs 6-7 lakh and your house will be secure and have power connection. But for those without a receipt, electricity will be stolen.
Correspondent: I don’t have that big a budget. Do you have anything for Rs 50,000?
S: You will not get a house but only land at that price. We can construct a house on it for a total of Rs 1.5 lakh. 

A receipt given by forest department after conducting a surveyA receipt given by forest department after conducting a survey

mid-day also visited another agent, Madhav, from the same area.
Correspondent: I met some agents here and they showed me rooms in forest land. I need room or land on a hilltop.
Madhav: I will give you a house and also get you transferred to a flat after demolishing your room in this forest land. We have many ways to make that happen. In fact, I recently sold a house for Rs 6.5 lakh for which the buyer will get a rehabilitation flat. 
C: What do I have to do for that?
M: I will give you a room with a receipt but it will not get transferred to your name. You can sign an agreement with the room owner and once the forest department is ready to demolish the house and offer a rehabilitation flat, we can get that transferred to your name.

When the correspondent said he was looking for something cheaper, for Rs 50,000, the agent showed him some other land in the forest. 
C: What is the process to get the land in my name?
M: I will connect you with a forest officer who will give you a receipt to construct a room in forest land. We have contacts of several forest officers, including officer Noore from the national park office in Borivli. 
C: But isn’t there a risk of the house being demolished later on?
M: I guarantee it won’t. If any forest officer comes to demolish your house, I will stop it with my contacts. 
We only have to give some bribe.
C: How much will I have to pay?
M: You have to pay Rs 50,000 to the forest officer and commission charges to me. I will make your room for just Rs 1 lakh. But getting a rehabilitation flat is not my responsibility.
C: Will the forest officer give me anything in writing for the land?
M: No, they will only give you a receipt to build a house on forest land. 
‘Build it at your own risk, 
and stay firm’
The situation was not any different at the forest land in Mulund too. When the mid-day team visited Shankar Tekdi hill at Rahul Nagar, they found around 100 hutments, with water and light connection, lining up the slope of the hill. When the correspondent enquired about availability of land or a hut there, several residents came up to talk. While they said every piece of land was already occupied, they also gave some tips on how to make it work still.

Correspondent: How can I get a hut here?
Resident 1: You can go to local politicians. They will take their cut and approve it. And if you have the guts, you can erect one now too. 
Resident 2: Most of us have been sanctioned rehabilitation homes in Goregaon. Once these huts are razed, you can try making one. Or you can go and ask if anyone wants to sell theirs. 
Resident 3: If you have guts, bring material and start construction. If anyone objects, you must have courage to retaliate and hold your ground. That’s how we have managed to stay here.
What SGNP official has to say
SGNP Director G Mallikarjun said, “We have received information that many agents are making money from constructing houses and selling it to the people. We also found that many agents are giving fake slips to customers and selling houses on forest land. We even trapped some agents last February and registered a police case.”
“There are tribal people who have been living in the forest areas for many years and most of them are shifted to other places in SRA buildings. We have shifted 11,200 families earlier and the process is on for another 13,600 families. We have contacted MHADA to construct houses for them,” he added.
When asked if buying forest land was legally possible, the officer said, “Nobody can purchase forest land now. We stick receipts on the doors of the people who have legal houses and paid Rs 7,000 in 2008 to the forest department. If we find any agent or any of our officers involved in this matter we will take action against them. We are also investigating this matter.”


Since 2000
July 13, 2022
Part of a hill fell on a chawl room, killing 2 people, in Wagralpada area of Rajawali at Vasai 
July 5, 2022
A landslide took place in Ghatkopar’s Panchsheel Nagar. There were no casualties
July 18, 2021
As many as 32 people lost their lives in landslides in Chembur and Vikhroli. Later, 120 residents from the area were shifted elsewhere
29 slum dwellers died at Kurar, Malad East, in a landslide

Danger zones
More than 1 lakh families live on hill slopes with over 22,000 families living in designated danger zones. There are around 291 landslide-prone zones in the city, most of which are located in Ghatkopar, Bhandup, Asalpha, Kurla, Sakinaka, Jogeshwari, Dindoshi and Malad.

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK