“I feel like I’m being asked to prove if I really am my father’s child,” said Parvez Sahebjan Shaikh (38) as he glanced around the 10 ft x 10 ft room in a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-owned building he calls home.
Shakh’s is among the 500-odd families — all tenants of BMC-owned buildings in South Mumbai’s Ward A — affected by a civic circular making Crime Branch clearance mandatory for transfer of tenancy. Over a third of these families live at Musafirkhana near Crawford Market.
What this means is that even transfer of tenancy in these BMC-owned buildings from dead father to son would require a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the police.
The Musafirkhana ‘dormitory’ building, in which 180 of the affected families stay, is a stone’s throw away from the infamous Sara-Sahara shopping complexes in which gangster Dawood Ibrahim is said to have invested money.
Stung by the ensuing controversy, the BMC felt it could check the presence of the underworld in the area by making police NOCs mandatory for transfer of tenancy.
Of Mumbai’s 24 wards, Ward A is the only one where the circular is applicable.
Sunil Dhamne, assistant municipal commissioner, Ward A, said: “The rule was applied in the ward after the Sara-Sahara case. We want to take the necessary precautions.” Another official added: “This was an attempt to check any more attempts by the underworld to invest in the area. We are helpless about the inconvenience caused.”
Vasant Prabhu, assistant municipal commissioner (estate), however, denied knowledge of the circular. “We didn’t issue the circular. The ward office must have issued it.”
Atiya Parveen Shaikh, an activist and one of the affected tenants, said: “Sara-Sahara is history. Why blame us for it? The fact that Ibrahim could not have constructed the mall without the help of civic officials was conveniently ignored. Do we now have to ask for character certificates from BMC officials?”
Police officials remained tight-lipped, with Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Deven Bharti denying any knowledge of the procedure.
Even though the BMC officially took sanction about the NOC only in 2007, both officials and tenants admit that the practice has been on for much longer.
A direct consequence of the rule is the inordinate delay in transferring flats. It could also lead to the stalling of the buildings’ much-needed redevelopment.
The Musafirkhana ‘dormitory’ is a massive, poorly-maintained, three-storey, chawl-like structure housing 180 families. An average of five people live in each of its 180 rooms, which measure 100 square feet each.
A tenant, requesting anonymity, said: “We want to shift into bigger houses. But even the builder who will redevelop our buildings needs every room to be transferred to its rightful owner. With 60 per cent of tenancy transfers pending, I wonder how long the redevelopment will take.”