In the narrow, dimly-lit corridors of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) offices, there’s only one thing that moves with unmatched speed, Money.
If you want anything done, get a building plan sanctioned, get a completion certificate or something like that, either you wait for a year or maybe more or you get a tout who’ll speed things up for a fee or you dip into your savings and pass on some of it to the MCD man you are dealing with.
Take the case of Vinod Arora(52), a doctor from Oman who had to cough up Rs 25,000 to get a building plan sanctioned. Money was his last option. Political clout, too, failed in front of the power of money.
“We had a harrowing time dealing with the junior engineers who scrutinized our documents. To get the plan cleared on time we even approached the local MLA and councilor but even that didn’t help. We had submitted the plan with all the requisite documents conforming to the byelaws. Our plot was also from the DDA so there was no question of delaying the application. They made us run around for 60 days by raising some silly objection or the other. My brother had taken a month’s leave so he had no option but to pay up,” said Vinod’s brother V.K. Arora.
Since it caters to 96.9 per cent of the city’s area, one is bound to have some kind of dealing with the MCD at one point or another, from getting a building plan sanctioned to getting a birth and death certificate, making property tax payments among others.
While getting a plot in the city is a humbling experience in itself, what is an even bigger challenge is building a house on the said plot. Before one starts constructing their dream house they have to pass the Herculean ordeal of getting their building plan sanctioned from the MCD.
Though the process may appear quite simple, make the blueprint of the plan and submit it with the requisite documents, the file gets stuck at various levels in the MCD offices.
The only way to ensure that the file keeps moving till it reaches its final destination is to hand out adequate kickbacks.
Officially, and on paper, the time taken to sanction a building plan is one week. Earlier it used to be a month. The reality is that it takes a lot more than one week or month. Sometimes it takes up to a year.
The building plans for plots up to 400 square yards are approved by the zone’s executive engineer(building) and plans for plots more than 400 square yards go to superintending engineer, headquarters.
“They now say that if all the papers are in place, the plan can be sanctioned within a week. But when we approach them with all the documents they always find some flaw or the other resulting in delay. The files are sent from one department to the other. Rather than making several trips to the zonal offices, it’s easier to pay them,” says Keerat Sodhi, a Greater Kailash II resident.
Many times, rather than approaching the civic agency, the residents find it easier to involve middlemen, a politer word for touts, who promise to get the work done in a given time.
“It’s not possible for the general public to get a building plan sanctioned themselves. No one has so much time to visit the MCD offices time and again. So they have no other option but to involve an architect or middlemen. The people are told from the very beginning that they will have to shell out money to get their work done on time. People are not even aware of the rules and regulations. The MCD should at least come up with the list which should be made available on the website and zonal offices,” says Pankaj Aggarwal, general secretary, Joint Front of RWAs.
The situation is even worse for getting a building plan approved to construct additional floors.
“Before giving clearance for constructing additional floors the MCD agency asks the owner to bring the building back to its original shape. This means demolishing many parts of the building. People are left with no option but to give in,” adds Arora.
“People get loans sanctioned to construct their houses. If there are delays in getting a building plan sanctioned it means paying more interest. To avoid that, they find it easier to pay MCD,” says Rajiv Kakaria, a GK resident.