MUMBAI: The civic administration’s best efforts notwithstanding, the construction industry may not get relief from delays and corruption, the two biggest banes of the BMC’s building proposals department, too soon.
A move to streamline the opaque municipal building proposals department by deploying additional staff-to be drawn from the fire, traffic and law departments-seems to have fallen flat as civic sources points out that the administration has realized that those departments did not have enough strength to depute staffers for the work.
After last year’s TOI expose on the rampant corruption, demands for huge bribes and long delays in approving building plans, the BMC decided to speed up the system to approve files for buildings. Real estate developers also complained they were made to run around from one department to another to procure respective permissions. Among the most severe allegations are against the fire brigade department which is supposed to give the nod for the refuge areas of a building and the fire-fighting equipment. Some fire officials allegedly sanction unusually large fire refuge areas to favour certain builders, who surreptitiously sold that spaces as part of the apartment.
Flooded with complaints, the civic administration proposed to depute officials from the fire, roads and traffic departments as well as law officers in each of the four zonal building proposals offices across the city. “These staff will scrutinize the proposal from their point of view and issue necessary remarks and (ask for) no-objection certificates… this will help minimize the approval time and avoid queries raised by the chief fire officer and the traffic department,” the proposal stated. “It is also observed that litigations are arising in the building proposals department over ownership issues. Being a technical staff, it is difficult to understand legal issues/aspects of ownership documents etc. Hence, the assistant law officer must be posted in this department.”
But a few months after the proposal was placed before the civic chief, the administration is still caught in its own tangle. “These departments said they could not spare any officer. We will have to recruit more people and that is a long-drawn procedure,” said a senior official.
Municipal commissioner S J Kunte, however, insists that it will be implemented in a month. “The idea is to have all the approving authorities under the same roof so that the clearance process is shortened,” he said.
In 2012, then civic chief Subodh Kumar issued a circular saying all building approvals must be cleared within 60 days. This was meant to speed up building approvals, curb corruption and fix responsibility for delays.
But the circular was virtually sabotaged by ward level officials after Kumar retired two years ago.