Bombay Municipal Corporation
MUMBAI: "Political gimmick" is the unanimous opinion of builders to BMC's general body resolution, seeking to stall construction permissions if any builder sells flats on grounds of caste, religion or food preferences.
Developers who spoke to TOI said they did not want to be identified because it is a sensitive issue, but privately lambasted the resolution and said it cannot be implemented. Across the city, several housing societies have strict rules and take only vegetarian members. Some builders sell flats only to members of certain communities.
For instance, virtually the entire upmarket Walkeshwar area in south Mumbai has been turned into a vegetarian zone with even non-vegetarian restaurants being forced to shut down in the past. MNS, Shiv Sena, Congress and Samajwadi Party members objected to several developers refusing to sell flats to people who eat non-vegetarian food.
"The law allows like-minded people to come together and form housing societies. This is an unnecessary controversy. Any society is free to choose their members," said a leading Mumbai developer, who did not wish to be identified.
Advocate Vinod Sampat said the resolution is just political posturing. "It has no legal relevance and the decision need not be implemented by the municipal commissioner." Sampat further said it is for the purchaser to raise an objection, not BMC. "BMC's task is only to sanction building plans," he added.
A suburban developer said many a times societies tell builders what they want. "BMC should be broad-minded. This is the culture of the city. Anyway, people will find ways to avoid such diktats," he said.
Mumbai has several traditional community enclaves, especially for Parsis, Catholics, Jains, Sindhis, Saraswat Gouds and Bohras. To these ethnic ranks has been added a new criterion: Being vegetarian.
In Kandivli, only Dawoodi Bohras live in Hooseini co-operative housing society. Dadar has a Parsi Colony. In Bandra, the sprawling St Sebastian and Salsette complexes are only for Roman Catholics, and the Hindu Bunts have sole rights to their place in Palekam Wadi. There are exclusive Muslim enclaves in the city as well. The biggest of them is Millat Nagar in Andheri (West). Comprising around 1,400 flats and a beautiful mosque, Millat Nagar was founded by Maulana Ziauddin Bukhari, a cleric. It aims to preserve and promote Islamic culture.
Housing experts say each community has its own unique religious and social needs, which are best met if large numbers of the community live together. Also, these cooperative societies were formed for the benefit of the middle-class and economically deprived sections. If membership (as in Parsi Colony) is thrown open to all, there is a possibility that those from higher income brackets in other communities will acquire these properties and create an imbalance in the social milieu. For instance, if a sufficient number of vegetarians take over flats in Parsi Colony, it's not impossible that they would demand vegetarianism in the colony, as is the case in several areas of Malabar Hill and Chowpatty.
Over the past decade, several community-specific residential buildings have also cropped up in Mumbai and its suburbs. In Thakur Village in Kandivli, the Flower Valley complex has two buildings where flats have been sold only to Jains. Sudha Park in Ghatkopar is also exclusively for the Jains, as is the 30-storey Sumer Tower in Mazagaon. India's tallest residential tower, Shreepati Arcade at Nana Chowk, is an all-veggie zone, with the builder making it a point to sell flats only to vegetarian families from the Gujarati, Sindhi or Marwari communities.