Ghatkopar resident and businessman Girish Mehta’s plea that the builder was short-changing him and the other 11 members of his society during the redevelopment of their 44-year-old building in 2008 fell on deaf ears. All his dissent did was prompt the managing committee to terminate his membership from the society.
“There is no room for dissent,” said Mehta, 53, who along with his neighbour Durgaben Mehta fought against the redevelopment plan. “The committee had become a pawn in the hands of the builders.”
Both tenants of Hirani cooperative housing society in Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar (east), objected to the size of the flats as well as the lack of a corpus fund and bank guarantee, which is usually offered by developers. The guarantee would ensure that the society gets money to complete the work in case the builder backs out mid-way, while the corpus fund would ensure that the society members have enough money to tide over the increased expenses after the new building is constructed.
The duo finally took the matter to court. “There was no way we could give in when we knew we were being taken for a ride by the builder,” said Mehta. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in their favour, ordering the builder to set up a corpus fund for all members and offer a bank guarantee. Work on the new building is currently underway.
Housing activists say that as more and more old buildings go for redevelopment, disputes in between residents and the society’s managing committee have become a common phenomenon, leading to severe hostilities and making it difficult for society members to live together amicably.
“There are hardly any projects where there are no fights,” said activist Gaurang Vora who blames the builders for driving a wedge between residents. Developers are interested in redevelopment projects as they get an incentive area to sell in the open market as compensation for undertaking the scheme. “They lure committee members with promises of additional area for their flats and also cash incentives,” said Vora.
The state government has decreed that for any redevelopment project to go ahead, the builder must have the consent of 70% of the total tenants. So it’s in a builder’s interest to offer incentives and manipulate votes in his favour, and the easiest way to do this is to influence the managing committee members, who can then try and coerce the other residents into agreement.
In societies planning to go for redevelopment, often there are multiple groups with each trying to bring in their favoured builder. “In many cases, rival builders back another group and the result is constant strife,” said Vora.
Shaila Palekar, 73, and her family who live in the Middle Income Group (MIG) Colony in Bandra (east), are suffering sleepless nights after their managing committee has refused to accept their claim on the flat they live in. The flat is in the name of her deceased brother, who lived with her family and other relatives in the flat as part of a joint family set-up for decades.
“We approached the high court, which ruled that we are the legal occupants of the flat, but even after that the committee does not consider us as members,” she said. “The committee in connivance with the builder has said they will evict us. These are the same people whom we have seen as kids years ago. Today, thanks to redevelopment, they all seem to have changed colours.”
Advocate Vinod Sampat terms the growing nexus between the developer and the managing committee members as dangerous. “Committee members tend to use coercive tactics so that other members toe the line,” he said. “Managing committee members are sometimes glorified brokers for the builder.”
Huge colonies such as Motilal Nagar in Goregaon and Abhudaya Nagar at Kalachowkie have seen intense fights in the recent times because of redevelopment.
Spread over 128 acres, Motilal Nagar is one of the biggest housing colonies in the city with 3,828 tenants, and major players like RNA, HDIL and Vichare have been trying to win the redevelopment project.
Constant spats and visits to police stations are common, and the situation has become so bad that residents have formed a Motilal Nagar Bachao Samitee.
“The builders have vitiated the atmosphere to such an extent that neighbours who have lived peacefully for decades have turned against each other and even families have started squabbling among themselves,” said Yuvraj Mohile, conveyer of the Samitee.
At the 34-acre Abhudaya Nagar, builders are wooing residents with lavish donations for local festivals and sports activities as well as bankrolling the committee members with various incentives. “All festivals have become commercialised and the bonhomie has disappeared with the arrival of the builders,” said Narayan Ghagre, former corporator and resident.