The building collapse in Mumbra has again brought to the fore the ugly side of the real estate boom in Mumbai and its neighbourhood. Everyone knows who is to be blamed - the nexus of builders, politicians and administration. As usual, noises will be made by opposition parties and the ruling side will promise to break the nexus. Sadly, there is hardly any political party in the state that can convince us that it will actually crack down on the real estate mafia.
The nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and greedy builders has become so strong that nobody in the state’s political and administrative circle believes that this can be broken in the near future. Even someone like chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has kept himself away from the builders’ lobby, would find it difficult to do so even if he decides to. The influence of the nexus is strong and can be easily felt in the corridors of power.
More than two third of the elected representatives in Mumbai-Thane-Pune belt are directly or indirectly involved in the real estate business. Shocking details will come out if any proper investigation is carried out into the involvement of bureaucrats in civic bodies, urban development, revenue and housing departments that grant various permissions to real estate developers. The common man would find the bidding done for key posts in civic bodies or the departments that deal with real estate development unbelievable.
The influence of the mafia was also evident when the move to create a housing regulatory authority faced so many hurdles. It’s also clear from the fact that local administration officers and police officers are rarely prosecuted for allowing illegal buildings in their jurisdiction, despite provisions in the law giving them the power.
If the Mumbra building collapse has really shaken the government, we should expect some strong steps by Chavan to rein in the mafia. After all, it affects our lives and is also a major reason why Mumbai has to deal with issues such as crumbling infrastructure, slow pace of rebuilding the same, slums, traffic congestion, pressure on civic amenities and skyrocketing prices of real estate and unusually high rent.
In the past two decades, there has been barely any planning for growth. The last time the state government showed any sign of vision was three decades ago, when the satellite city of Navi Mumbai was built to take the pressure off Mumbai. It was expected that the government would plan two or more such cities towards the north with wide roads and mass transport system to connect them to the city.
Unfortunately, except some sporadic efforts, there has been very little planning and implementation. Serious efforts to decongest Mumbai would have meant opening up a large area for planned development in a short span of time. Of course, this would have meant less scope for earning huge profits as the real estate mafia reaped the benefit of almost lawless development in areas such as Mumbra, Kalwa, Ulhasnagar, some parts of Thane city, Mira Road and Bhayander.
Ajit does it again
The rank and file of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is still wondering why deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar made those crass remarks. After angry reactions from all quarters, Pawar has called the remarks the biggest blunder of his political career. The goof-up has come at a time when the party was least expecting it. More than one-third of the state is facing drought and the controversy over irrigation scam has not died down yet. On Monday, as Pawar faced an angry opposition, most of his party colleagues were unanimous in one thing -- he needs a good set of advisors on what to speak in public…