Kanta Pataria, 46, recalls the struggle of her deceased father-in-law, Keshavji, who had sold his house in the 1980s, and paid Rs 1.65 lakh for a 300-sqft flat in Thakkar Bappa Colony, Chembur. In spite of this, the Patarias continue to reside in a slum in the colony.
This plight is shared by 61 other Kutchi refugee families from Pakistan, who have been deprived of their paid for homes for nearly 20 years on account of embezzlement amounting to Rs 1.5 crore, committed by the managing committee of the Kasturba Nagar cooperative housing society, where they bought flats.
In November 1977, the Mumbai suburban district collector granted a 2,313.6 sqm plot to the society at a concessional rate to construct three buildings for 72 tenements. As per the agreement signed between the society and the collector, the society’s 72 members from the refugee Kutchi community were to be housed in the buildings.
But, in 1996, when the construction was complete, only 42 flats had been built and the managing committee gave possession to 10 of the society’s 72 members. Taking note of the violations, the collector issued an order against the society on August 25.
Instructions were issued to the Chembur city survey officer and the Kurla tehsildar to take over the plot and evict the occupants under the Bombay Government Premises Eviction Act, 1955. But four months on, action is yet to be taken. “Eviction notices will be issued after the city survey officer sends us a report of the plot acquisition,” said Sunil Jadhav, naib tehsildar, Kurla division.
In 2000, the economic offences wing had filed a charge sheet and framed six former managing committee members for cheating under relevant Indian Penal Code sections. The accused sought anticipatory bail in the same year.
The irregularities began in the 1980s when Laghubhai Rosia, the then chairperson of the society and his son, Suman, a founder member, got the building plans approved to construct only 42 instead of 72 flats. “We, along with 20 other members, were not given a flat despite having paid Rs 1.97 lakh,” said Navin Maheswari, whose deceased father, Kishan, was an original member and later, a complainant in the case.
A 2011 inquiry report of the deputy registrar of cooperative societies on the matter states how the Rosias illegally gave membership to 32 people and to their own family members, who were not original members of the society. The society continues to be run by the Rosias who have appointed stand-in office bearers, said the complainants.
The collector issued the first order in 2002 asking the Rosias to implement the land allotment agreement conditions or face loss of possession of the plot. Two orders by the collector in 2011 and 2013 and orders by the divisional commissioner and the revenue minister upholding the collector’s order were also ignored.
When asked about the action taken on his order, Shekhar Channe, suburban district collector, said: “I will have to look up the papers of the case before commenting.”
Suman said: “Many of the members had not made payments in time and hence, we could not give them flats. As far as change of use of the tenements from residential to commercial is concerned, we did not get a response to our application sent to the collector in 1997. We have challenged the collector’s order in the high court.”
Charge sheet says
* After the partition in 1947, some Dalit Hindus from Pakistan’s Kutch province migrated to Bombay with their families. In 1952, the government gave them tenements in a refugee camp in Thakkar Bappa Colony in Chembur. Those who did not get rooms stayed in the nearby slums
* In 1968, some residents formed Kasturba housing society (in pic) and asked the government to procure land to build their flats
* The flats were to be built on the government-allotted land by the Kasturba housing society for 72 displaced members of the society. But only 62 of the 72 people were given membership.