India must be the only country where every building is illegal in some way or the other.
Media is aghast at the brazen use of power to demolish the house of Kangana Ranawat [spelled (Ranaut)] by Maharashtra Government in Mumbai. But there is nothing surprising. The word draconian falls short to explain the powers given to Municipal Authorities and the brazen corruption. It must be kept in mind that the most corrupt offices and officers are most loyal to political masters. More on that but first try to understand the practical legal situation about building laws in India.
These are excerpts from my ebook titled “Corruption in India: (History, Law and Politics)” in relation to Illegal Constructions:
Here I am using the world ‘illegal’ rather loosely and not strict sense. Therefore it includes enchroachment, irregular, unauthorised, condonable, compundable and all other terms used in Building laws to denote what is not permissible in law.
Sanjay Baru was Media Advisor to the Prime Minister of India between 2004-2008 and has written about his tenure in Prime Minister’s Office in his book “Accidental Prime Minister – The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh.” He has also written about the Prime Minister’s residence 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi. (At the time of Baru it was called 7 Race Course Road.) Entry to PMO is narrated by Baru in these words:
“I went to meet Dr Singh on Monday at the prime minister’s sprawling official residence, 7 Race Course Road—7 RCR as it is popularly called—at the edge of Lutyens’ Delhi and bordering diplomatic enclave. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the security around the PM’s official residence has become so elaborate that entering it is quite an ordeal. The Special Protection Group (SPG), an elite security unit protecting the PM, which was created in 1985 after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, allows in only such visitors whose names have been provided to them by the personal secretary to the PM. After driving through the first gate of the outer compound, visitors alight near the second gate. Only ministers, authorized officials and foreign dignitaries are allowed to drive through the second gate, and get into SPG vehicles that will take them a couple of hundred yards down the road to the PMO. Those less privileged must first walk into a visitors’ room, deposit their mobile phones and be screened by security. Only then are they ferried by the SPG in its fleet of Maruti cars to the Prime Minister’s Office.”
Do you notice the illegalities visible from this very paragraph? I will explain it, but notice this paragraph:
“Landing in Delhi on a February morning I called Jaideep and Indu. I was told Dr Singh was at 5 RCR, which had been turned into a mini-hospital, still under constant medical care, and no visitors had yet been allowed to see him. It turned out later that these restrictions had been put in place because of anxiety about his recovery, which had been slower than expected……..When I arrived at 3 RCR I was asked to go to 5 RCR where Mrs Kaur met me at the portico and took me in. A team of doctors was sitting in the visitors’ room. I removed my shoes, washed my hands and went in.”
On Wednesday, 22 February, Rama and I went to Andhra Bhavan for dinner. We were in ‘mid-thaali’ when my mobile phone rang. It was a 3 RCR number. It was the PM himself, summoning me. I forced Rama to forgo dessert and we drove straight to the PM’s house………… When I reached 3 RCR, Dr Singh was seated in his living room looking distraught. ‘We do not have an agreement as yet and President Bush is coming in a week’s time. I don’t think this nuclear agreement will go through,’ he said.
And this paragraph:
“..I then called on Dr Singh at 3 RCR. Both he and Mrs Kaur were seated in the living room, each reading a book. That was such a familiar sight. I had seen them this way on innumerable occasions; just the two of them, reading together in companionable silence.”
Let me elaborate now. The aforesaid paragraphs tell the Prime Minister lives in several houses numbered 3 to 7 of Race Course Road now known as Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi. All thee houses have been made on unit by demolishing inner walls and each unit has been put to different types of use by Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
If you are living in any town in India and you have 4 adjacent houses, you can not break open the walls dividing the houses or install doors between them. You have to step out of gate on to the municipal road and open the gate of next house to enter it. If you open a gate between the two houses, it is illegal. Let me know if any municipal authority has given permission to anybody to do that. Here not only this has been done by Prime Minister but it is also done by Leader of main Opposition Party, Sonia Gandhi who has opened a gate between 10 Janpath residence and 24 Akbar Road office of Congress Party.
Secondly, all these houses of PMO, from house number 3 which is the residence of Prime Minister to number 5 which is hospital and number 7 which is the office have not a mere gate but have been converted into one property with common garden and through fare. That is completely illegal. I wonder if permission was obtained from New Delhi Municipal Committee (NMDC) and if Permission was given, I would like to know if similar permission was given to anybody else in the country?
Coming to the creation of hospital in 5 RCR for Prime Minister. Any hospital in residential area is illegal especially for the reason of the medical waste it generates. But the question is: Was permission for this change sought from NDMC? Similar is the position of using 7 RCR as office of Prime Minister. Can a businessman use his residence as office?
Answer is a bid ‘NO’? Because it is a commercial activity which is not permissible in residential are. Now visualise a residential house with a few beds all occupied by a few young men in their twenties, all with a laptop or a MacBook lying on the beds maintaining websites doing business running into millions. Is this residential activity? The fact is that because no one could tell the difference, nobody could object.
In any case professional activity like office of lawyers, architect and chartered accountant is permissible. No body has time to elaborate numerous new professions e.g. cinematographer, film maker or editor etc.
Now let’s talk about the rooms, windows, cupboards and washbasins in PMO. According to Municipal laws all these have to be shown in the original map at the time of sanction of building plans. If you shift anything, Municipal Corporation people can come inside your house and demolish it. (Though Municipal Laws are not applicable on Government Buildings)
While Municipal Corporation has no clue to make roads wide enough to last 20 years, it expects that a house once built must be retained in same shape with each wash basin and toilet at same place and size for next 100 years because life of modern RCC built house is 100 years. Prime Minister office can not predict and build house for 100 years but a common man should be superman to do it?
Talking about RCC or “Reinforced Concrete Construction” it is a norm in northern India as it is a zone of seismic activity. In any case a house built with bricks alone does not support more than two floors. The Municipal norms and building laws were enacted in that era when RCC was unheard of. Nobody thought it necessary to change it. In any case why change it when it can prove to be a trillion rupee bribe industry?
When these restrictions were imposed, these were reasonable. Even today these restrictions may me useful for certain types of building but why bother to think about that?
Under the guise of such obsolete laws which seriously infringe privacy and are beyond common sense, every building is susceptible to demolition and therefore an easy target for bribe or revenge as the political masters may require from time to time.
The restriction on not changing a wall or not changing windows or toilet or room partition were imposed when making these changes could affect the structural integrity of the building. Now the RCC structure of building is made first and then inner partitions are laid. Therefore this type of restrictions re obsolete and must be junked immediately. This one change can reduce 20% of corruption in this country. Remember every house and building is presently illegal.
If this is the state of affairs, illegal construction is a reservoir which is always flowing. Because building activity is mired in corruption it is a fertile ground for criminal mafia because after political masters, the corrupt is too afraid of criminal. If they die by a bullet of criminal what will happen to all the ill gotten wealth. Therefore they obey criminal turned builders like they do to political masters. Often there is no difference between the two.
What is the surprise that Uddav Thakrey Government chose to use it on Kangana Ranawat (spelled Ranaut) to express it’s displeasure for giving her Y+ security by Central Government with which it is on a war path due to drug mafia.
Shall revert to specific issues of Kangana’s case and Governance issues in Maharashtra, tomorrow.