The irony in the story of Campa Cola society

The residents did not verify the legality of their house and the corporation did not stop the illegal construction from happening. The residents and the corporation has since been fighting while the builders are nowhere in sight.

About 100 odd families trying to save their home from demolition is a scene which will punch you in your gut. A similar thing happened when the television popped up the visuals of Campa Cola society residents trying to prevent the demolition party and cops from entering into their society premises by locking and sticking to their entrance gate.

As much as the figure generated sympathy, it also generated hatred for the people who were responsible for the plight of the old men and women residing there for almost 25 years. Young girls crying for mercy, men and women trying to save their houses which they bought from their life savings in the economic heartland of the country – it was all about the dilemma of the middle-class which was caught in between his dreams and reality.

This dream and reality part has some bitter truth which converts the sympathy into pity and enhances the disenchantment towards the system too.

The fate of the compound was pretty much sealed when the buildings were being constructed. The land, which was leased by Pure Drinks Ltd, got the permission for residential construction by the then Bombay Municipal Corporation. However, a plan was neither produced by the builders nor passed by the corporation.

The BMC had allowed construction of six storey buildings but the builders – PSB Construction, Yusuf Patel and BK Gupta – went on creating 16 to 20 floors in them. The BMC then issued notice to the builders to stop work after it found out the irregularities in the construction. The builders finished their work after paying the fine to the BMC.

The flats were subsequently sold and buyers occupied the flats.

Interestingly, the buyers never demanded for a purchase certificate from the builders, neither did they get one voluntarily from them. It was only after that they became aware of the illegal status of their flats they became worried.

Also, the BMC had promised to regularize the illegal floors in which the builders would have paid a fine and the residents would have remained out of hassle. But it never happened.

The fact that the BMC willfully ignored the illegal construction and merely collected penalty raises eyebrows. The height of its insensitivity rose when the residents went to the corporation trying to get their homes regularized and connected to water supply. Instead of pulling out the builders and taking action against them, the municipal commissioner ordered demolition of over 100 flats.

The fight between the residents and the corporation has since been going on while the builders are nowhere in the plain sight.

From 2005 to 2013 was a long battle fought by the residents which they lost because of their negligence while buying their house. First the High Court then the Supreme Court – both the justice delivering bodies ordered evacuation and demolition. On October 1, the Supreme Court had permitted the residents to vacate the flats till November 11.

The resident of the society aggressively immersed themselves in the protest against the court order. They met the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan demanding an ordinance to be passed by him for saving the Campa Cola compound. But the CM did not show any intention to do the same excusing himself for the “legality” of the matter.

After they found no solution, the residents locked the gates of the compound barricading themselves against it in order to stop the demolition. However, an order from the Supreme Court came as an instant relief for them which extended the stay period till May 31, 2014. The apex court also agreed to consider the proposal of constructing a separate building in the premises for those whose apartments are to be demolished.

It should be noted that “human problem” that the apex court was referring to may have earned the Campa Cola society members a few more days, but the problem remains the same.

The skewed real estate market of Mumbai where a 476 square feet MHADA flat costs Rs55 lakh, it is only natural for a desperate buyers to naively or knowingly invest in properties that aren’t entirely legal. The faith in the screwed system that allowed the illegal buildings to come up to regularise them makes such incidents to be repeated.

When building violations are found out and flat owners are threatened with eviction, politicians lobby to regularise the buildings in order gain brownie points with their vote banks. When they get away with it, builders are encouraged. Had the BMC taken action against every unauthorised construction, then vast swathes of the city called Mumbai, especially the western suburbs, Thane and Ulhasnagar, would be emptied.

The need of the hour is to regularize the real estate market and also provide a better solution to the residents who are, somehow, caught in this net of lies. Afterall, a home is supposed to give you peace and not make you live at the mercy of court order.

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