BMC’s notorious building proposals (BP) department is back in news again.
As per a report by TOI, a Right to Information (RTI) reply from the department, early this month, has revealed some scandalous details. Nearly 1401 building construction files of properties between Goregaon and Dahisar are missing from the department’s Kandivali office.
This incident raises suspicions on the strong nexus between builders in Mumbai and local officials to deliberately misplace these files so that no traces are left of possible building violations. Missing records could also severely impact future redevelopment of these properties. That is because any builder interested in redeveloping a building would not know how much floor space index (FSI) the property had consumed, said the report.
The RTI filed by a Kandivli resident, Dr. Sachin Mane, established that 660 files from the municipal P ward (Goregaon- Malad) and another 741 files from R ward (Kandivli-Dahisar) are untraceable. Civic chief Ajoy Mehta told TOI he has asked the department for a status account and the progress made so far in investigating the case with the police.
“To plug this, all files are now computerized and on a cloud server,” he said.
Parag Raut, the deputy chief engineer who heads the Kandivli BP department, said he is currently on long leave when contacted. However, the department’s public information officer furnished the entire list of the 1,401 missing documents with details about their file number, location of these properties, their architects and permissions given for construction.
Now, this is not the first time such an incident has come to light.
In a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Leslie Almeida December 2017, information was sought on the number of complaints filed over unauthorised constructions, number of MRTP notices issued, number of notices issued under MMC Act, number of FIRs (first information reports) filed for non-compliance of the notices and the number of demolitions carried out. However, the RTI activist received a reply on later in the month that said the information was not available in the office record and hence it could not be made available.
“I just asked for the number of complaints on illegal constructions and the number of FIRs filed since 2014 but they were unable to provide me the information because they do not have any record. They maintain registers for everything. These are vague replies because they do maintain registers and all that they need to do is refer to the registers. Why are they hiding this vital bit of information?” said Almeida.
In December 2016 as well, another report of TOI stated that nearly 7314 files had remained untraceable, from the civic body building proposals department. Sources then too suspected that the files were deliberately destroyed by department officials, local politicians and builders to suppress large scale FSI violations as well as unauthorized constructions.
Many of these buildings are luxury towers in the western of Bandra, Khar and Santacruz. While the BMC claimed to have regenerated some of these 10,000-plus missing files across plus missing files across the city, the task remains arduous. Several errant builders are likely to escape action.
The central government run by BJP and who is also in alliance with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, in July this year, was considering a proposal to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had attacked the said government over proposed changes to the Right to Information Act, saying they will render the law useless.