India

Modus Operandi: How corrupt BMC officials defend land-grabbers against activists

Krishnaraj Rao for BeyondHeadlines

Mumbai: An activist friend named Abbaas Naqvi (9892000098) wrote in October 2012 about BMC’s modus operandi of defending illegal constructions in return for bribes. Abbaas wrote this in the context of his experiences in Malad P-North Ward of BMC/MCGM, where he and some other activists (such as Shahnawaz Shaikh 9867768070) were trying to get the municipal officials to take genuine action against illegal constructions (especially TV studios) sprouting in the area.

Like Abbaas and Shahnawaz, dozens of activists are fighting an uphill battle against errant BMC officials who take undue advantage of their official position. These activists are frustrated and are losing hope because authorities take no action against errant officials, even when written complaints and evidences are submitted.

Civic officials are successfully decking the city with the illegal structures, and defeating the town planning by abetting illegal constructions violating Development Control Regulations. Vast No-Development (ND) zones are goldmines for officers dealing with unauthorized (U/A) construction and violations done by builders.

Below, I am reproducing an edited version of Abbaas‘ writings. However, as I am convinced that this is largely factual, I personally take full legal responsibility for writing it.

Experience of citizens who complain to BMC’s P-North Ward Building Proposal Dept. and/or Building & Factory Dept:

  • BMC officials boldly fabricate lies, engage in buck-passing and misguide the complainant to protect unauthorized construction and offenders.
  • The officials buy time to “fade“ the matter. They protect the unauthorized construction by lengthening the procedure of investigation etc. Matters are deliberately “faded“ with long delays, repeated instances of inaction or inadequate action, and ignoring complaints. BMC officials who flout the law are getting away by bribing other authorities. Our civic body turns a blind eye to ongoing illegal construction activities, while common tax-payers are deprived of basic amenities and facilities.
  • There is non-responsiveness and inaction e.g. not issuing timely notice based on the complaint.
  • The officials take actions that are designed to fail e.g. issuing notice but not taking follow-up action.
  • They adopt time-wasting tactics to allow statute of limitations to lapse due to inaction.
  • They use loopholes i.e. take undue advantage of rules, laws and procedures to subvert the proper functioning of administrative machinery and lawful intent.
  • They cause mental & physical harassment i.e. malafidely use their authority and administrative machinery to cause fear, distress, inconvenience, loss of time etc. to the activist / complainant.
  • Targeting and victimization of the complainant, often taking selective action with malafide intent to persecute the complainant. If the activist is persistent, he may receive implied threats to stop the follow up of complaint / RTI.
  • False cases of extortion are filed against persistent activists, and they are sometimes branded as “habitual complainers” or “professional complainers” by the police and municipal officials. Some unofficial lists of such “complainers” are floated among municipal officials, damaging the credibility and social standing of the activists named in the list. Those named in the lists find it difficult to get a police complaint registered even if they are physically attacked by goons. They are discriminated against even at RTI appeal proceedings, and public information officers find it easy to get away with denying information in response to their RTI applications.
 Tricks used by officials against activists:
  • BMC officials sometimes reply that site complained against is not traceable by them, and so, they invite the activist for a joint visit. During the site visit, the henchman of the land-grabbers or illegal construction mafia get a chance to surround, threaten and thrash the activist.
  • Sometimes, BMC officials falsely claim that action has already been taken against the unauthorized / illegal construction. Often, such “actions” taken by BMC officials are an eyewash, enabling them to create fake records of “actions taken” in the Demolition Register. Demolitions are carried out in a half-hearted manner, and quite often, the contractors or builders / occupiers / owners are being forewarned about these “demolition drives”. Within few days of such “demolition drives”, the owner / contractor / builder / occupier rebuild and resume business-as-usual.
  • There are lots of cases where unauthorized work was detected but action not taken.
  • In other cases, action is taken but not pursued vigorously, defeating the intent of the law.
  • In many cases, actions is pursued in a defective way so as to ensure that the action fails to yeild results. In other cases, the action is withdrawn or dropped unauthorisedly without competent sanction.
  • It appears that the BMC officials are illegally parceling off open No-Development Zone plots and CRZ plots for unauthorized construction. Every success at land-grabbing further emboldens the land mafia-BMC official cartel.
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