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TOWERS OF SHAME STILL STAND TALL ON PALM BEACH ROAD, WHEN WILL ACTION BE TAKEN? – NMTV WEEKEND EXCLUSIVE

tower-1Six months have passed since NMMC first decided to take action against violations by towers by Palm Beach Road. The last deadline that NMMC gave builders who have violated FSI norms was April 19 and even that has passed but till date there has been no action taken by NMMC. Our big story this weekend is “if NMMC can take action on the poor in slums without thinking twice, why the special treatment for builders on Palm Beach Road? Why has the corporation not taken any action against towers on Palm Beach road when its own TPO has nailed grave violations? And is this not injustice to the poor and mockery of the equal rights the constitution guarantees to citizens of this nation? Every time the roof under which a poor slum dweller resides in slums is demolished or illegal hawkers are removed from the city roads and public spaces, authorities do not tire of sighting the reasons of law and rules for such actions. No one can dispute this as being wrong because what is illegal is illegal but then if law and rule is above anyone and anything is the mantra, then why spare the rich, mighty and influential? In fact, who gives the right to NMMC, CIDCO or for that matter anyone to have different parameters of taking decisions on what action is to be taken, when whatever one is talking about is illegal be the slums that are demolished or the tall towers on Palm Beach Road. Its’ so unfortunate that NMMC’s own Town Planning Dept. has put it on record that there have been FSI thefts and violations by builders who have towers on Palm Beah Road, yet when it comes to take action, there is only thinking and meetings and notices and excuses but no actual action. The issue of FSI violations and subsequent fire safety violations by towers were first raised by your channel in our campaign last year. We brought to you report after report on this until finally the corporators of NMMC Standing Committee took notice of our reports and in a meeting of November 2010 demanded that a committee be constituted to look into the violations by towers on Palm Beach Road. The good news was that the Commissioner Bhaskar Wankhede who was quite new at that time did not give a lame assurance but announced an investigation in the issue by forming a committee. What disappointed everyone later was that the responsibility of the enquiry was given the same officials of the TPO who were accused of playing hand in glove with builders for the FSI thefts and violations. Nonetheless everyone waited for the two months period of the survey to get over. Unfortunately, two months got over but the survey was still not completed. Finally, after almost 4 months, the TPO completed the survey that nailed the violations by towers on Palm Beach Road. Post the survey, 23 builders were sent notices for the violations they committed in their project. And they were given the deadline of April 19 to reply to the show cause notices. Now even this period is over but we still do not see any action against the violation committed by builders on Palm Beach Road. City journalist Jayesh Samant who has been following the issue questions whether NMMC has any intentions of taking action at all. Jayesh Samant who has seen the notices dashed out by NMMC says that the TPO is defending itself by saying that the violations were done after they gave OC to builders but this is hard to believe. Though NMMC survey has brought on record FSI theft and violations by builders, many allege the level of violations has been brought down. And that is why instead of the TPO, a third party should have been assigned the responsibility of conducting the survey and making a report on Palm Beach Towers. What’s unfortunate is that corporators in NMMC are not even aware that the survey is completed. Perhaps the reason for this is that the NMMC administration has not made the survey report public. Even Dashrath Bhagat who is a Congress member in the Standing Committee reiterates that they have not seen the report on the survey yet. The big questions on our weekend exclusive are * If action can be taken against illegal slums and illegal hawkers, then why not illegal construction by towers on Palm Beach Road? * Is this not injustice to the poor? * Is NMMC not being bias and favoring the rich, mighty and influential builders? Journalist Jayesh Samant agrees that there is immediate action against illegal slums but not towers. Surprisingly, both the ruling and opposition in NMMC too agree that action against the poor is faster and more forthcoming than the rich. Reliable sources inform that there are plans to sight the reason of public interest and not demolish illegal construction by towers on Palm Beach Road. Just like it happened in the case of Moraj Residency. But then is this not setting the wrong example? Wouldn’t builders take advantage of this and continue to violate GDCR rules and norms and sell property to ignorant buyers who become the ultimate shield for builders to escape action on them? Vithal More says this should not happen though. None of the builders who have been served notices on Palm Beach Road were ready to speak to us on the issue. A builder turned politician refused to speak to us in the matter saying that many builders who were served notices were his friends so he did not wish to speak to us. The only builder who did agree was Atul Agarwal, unfortunately he too was seen making lame attempts to safeguard his own community and push the blame on the buyers. May be it will take another RTI activist to file a writ petition or PIL just like was seen in the Adarsh scam and Harshsiddhi Towers to book corrupt officials and builders. With bureau inputs, Sana Warsia for NMTV News.

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