Breaking The Builders Lobby

The growing builder-political nexus is making sure the buyer sets himself up for not just an economic loss, but also for loss of life

Udit Mehta May 14, 2013
Victim from the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangaldesh

Victim from the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangaldesh

Thane and Dhaka are by relaxed estimates a 48-hour drive from each other. Mumbra and Savar are tragedies an exact 20 days apart. The resulting time ratio of distance and death mark an apologetic equation characteristic of the sub-continent’s urban ordeal. When, on April 24, 2013 the eight-storey Rana Plaza commercial complex collapsed in Dhaka’s Savar suburb killing 1126 people (still counting), it bore an eerie similarity to the April 4, 2013 collapse of an under-construction building in Thane’s Mumbra suburb that left 74 people dead. An NCP Corporator Hira Patil was one among a number of government officials including policemen, and municipal officers arrested in the aftermath of the collapse as investigations unearthed a sordid tale of bribery to blatantly bypass building bylaws.

In fact, in Mumbai one famous building complex in Worli, the Campa Cola Compound will be losing illegal floors and hundred of residents. According to a BMC analysis,  thousands of more buildings have been classified as illegal, several of which are in the city’s posh suburb, Juhu.

Similarly, in Bangladesh authorities ended an almost successful getaway bid by the collapsed buildings owner Sohel Rana near the Indian border at Benapole. Rana also part-timed as a low-level politician – being a member of the youth wing of the ruling Awami League.

Both incidents underscored a chronic sub-continental failure where urban growth is driven by an insane inflation in property prices and an inversely proportional impetus on construction quality. All of this is fuelled by a consortium of builders and politicians. The Robert Vadra-DLF scandal brought forth the entire cycle of how and why India’s urban growth is as haphazard as it is.

Builders work in conjunction with politicians offering incentives to allow a bypassing of building bylaws and in the process allow power holders to profit in return for impunity. What a consumer gets is sub-standard quality “prone-to-collapse” construction often bereft of even minimal safety standards.

BMC’s impending demolition of the Campa Cola building in Worli, Mumbai bears testimony to what holds in store for an ordinary citizen who puts his life’s savings into buying a home. While it was the builders who constructed as many as 14 floors above the sanctioned six between 1981-89, how such a blatant violation went without the notice of government officials during the construction can’t be a mystery to even the least speculative spectator. The only people suffering are the one’s who invested into buying a home.

In Gurgaon, perhaps the most visible example of India’s growing economic prowess is in the depleting groundwater resources quenching the thirst of greedy builders are likely to ensure the city goes into permanent drought mode within the next four years.

A Punjab and Haryana High Court order banning the use of ground water for construction purposes is being blatantly ignored in a manner as brazen as the builders themselves.

The only impacted party at the end of every flouting of building regulations is the ordinary citizen who works his entire life for the sake of housing his family under a rudimentary roof. It really is time for citizens to wake up, pick up a hammer and break down that lobby – the one where builders and their political brothers sit in comfort.

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