By Krati Gupta

“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
― Wallace Stegner,  Angle of Repose

This somewhat seems in congruence with the much hyped Campa Cola demolition case, as ubiquitous and pervasive as it has become owing to the extreme media coverage and support by a spate of politicians and social activists. Switch on the news and you can either see the hapless residents blocking the entry gates by forming human chains or holding ‘save our homes, save campa cola’ placards and banners or even  performing ‘hawans’ to refrain the authorities from setting foot into and bringing down their domiciles. The facebook page ‘save campa cola ‘ with its mission of ‘ Lets fight together against the builder-authority nexus’ has managed to garner 32k likes.  It’s absolutely clear that the residing families aren’t leaving any stone unturned, and all this has bore some fruits in the form of extension of deadlines issued by the court for final demolition. But with the court finally becoming stricter regarding the case, it doesn’t seem that its interested in making a precedent by allowing the illegal construction to stand.

With the blame game still going on, it’s easily discernible that the sole victim as of now is common man, every single  person of the 230 families who have been residing in these out -of -the- law establishments for more than 25 years. A digging in into the history depicts that ‘stop work’ notices have been issued by the BMC to  the three builders during the illegitimate construction of 35 extra floors as opposed to the floor space index (FSI). The builders were fined but they resumed work after paying penalties. Owing to the violation of norms, an occupation certificate (OC) was not issued to the Campa Cola compound. Despite this the builders put up the flats for sale in the market . In lieu of an OC, the BMC denied the installation of a  water connection. The inhabitants continued using water tankers for over a decade. It was only when a case was filed against the BMC, regarding the non provision of water connection, that the illegality of flats was brought to the fore. The court ordered demolition of the unlawful construction, sparking a clamour amongst the tenants.

When we look at the bigger picture, it is discovered that Mumbai has approximately 60,000 more Campa Cola’s and around 90% of the buildings lack the possession of building completion certificate (BCC). Stringent reforms in the real estate sector and their immediate and effective implementation, seem to be the only way out.

It’s the seller who pulls the strings currently, prioritising his own profits and manipulating in-search-of-a-roof  buyer. This needs to be curbed. A buyer friendly web based service showcasing all the details regarding a project, along with approvals and clearances granted,  area sanctioned and all the requisite information, is the need of the hour. Also demolitions and evacuation drives carried out , have the highest effect on buyers. When such a case is brought to light, the developers associated are generally absconding having pocketed their money, leaving the customers feeling betrayed and thrown out of their own homes. The builders, architects and the officials associated must be tracked down and held accountable for non compliance with the law. Mere blacklisting and suspension will serve no good, but a severe  exemplary punishment must be meted to them so that they think twice before conning the customer. Also the government needs to now pass the pending Real estate regulator bill, proposed in June 2013 in central cabinet which aims to act as a watchdog towards safeguarding and protecting consumer interests and providing timely redressal in case of grievances, particularly in the housing sector.

As far as preventive steps on the buyer’s side are concerned,  it’s always better to do some homework and check the seller’s books, to see whether or not they are stained with red ink. Instead of being lured by certain discounts on the property, the builders credentials and the previous projects undertaken and successfully completed should be thoroughly looked into, before sealing the deal. If not much information is available in this regard, RTI can be filed. Hiring a lawyer or a property consultant can also equip buyers with the pros and cons regarding the property of interest.

Ultimately, It’s better to learn your own lessons from the Campa Cola saga and save yourself from the plight the residents of it are currently facing. As the old adage rightly goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure.’


Krati is currently a pre final year, Chemical engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad. She loves watching movies and posing for pictures. Apart from juggling between the concepts of thermodynamics and heat transfer during college hours, she is a greenhorn at writing and is highly optimistic about exploring the vast horizon in this field . She believes penning down her thoughts will make at least a small difference to the world.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind