Dear BMC, don’t raze Campa Cola building, make it a school

Resources generated as a result of illegal activities can be seized and used to benefit disadvantaged sections of the society


Puja Bhattacharjee | May 2, 2013

Following a supreme court directive, over a hundred flats in Campa Cola compound, at Worli in Mumbai, face the threat of demolition. When Campa Cola had acquired the land for residential use, they were permitted to build only five-storey houses. But the builders flouted the rules and built 20-storey houses instead.

Twenty-five years on, amid protests by the residents, the supreme court has given the residents time of five additional months to vacate the flats. And that order is standing between the Brihanmumbai municipal corporation (BMC) and demolition of the illegally added floors — that is, all floors above the fifth one.

In a similar case a few years ago, the demolition drive undertaken by the municipal corporation of Delhi (MCD) against the illegally constructed designer malls on Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road caused a furore among designers who owned outlets there. Today, the half-demolished malls stand in a precarious condition, posing serious threat to the lives of passersby and motorists.

Demolition is a natural course of action for illegal structures. But instead of tearing a building down can they be put to constructive use?
Here’s an option: in 2008, the palatial house of an IAS officer charged with graft was converted to a primary school for Dalit children by the Bihar government. The Bihar special courts act allows confiscation of property of a person accused of corruption.

In land-starved Mumbai or Delhi, the BMC or the MCD/NDMC — indeed municipal corporations across the country — could follow this Bihar example. Keeping public welfare in mind, the civic bodies can convert illegal structures into schools, shelters or hospitals for the underprivileged instead of bulldozing them.
Like the Bihar government, which made education, a distant and at times unachievable dream for many, attainable for many children from economically marginal families, governments and civic bodies of other states, too, utilise such buildings, structures or plots to benefit the impoverished.

In Delhi, where government hospitals are overflowing and lack of beds make many patients to seek shelter in the corridors, converting the mall on M-G Road into a hospital would have been a wise decision that would have been welcomed by most. Basic amenities like electricity, water supply and gas connection were already in place, and thus infrastructure cost to set up a hospital or school could have been minimal.

But, alas, the malls were demolished with reckless abandon without mulling how these structures might be used productively.

Flouting of norms by builders cannot be condoned but the resources generated as a result of illegal activities can be seized and used to benefit the disadvantaged sections of the society.

Anyone listening in BMC?



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