Pitaram Complex in Narhe, which collapsed on October 31, wasn't constructed by an experienced developer but a grocer who had bought a piece of land and had turned builder overnight. Had his first venture not crumbled, he had aspired to construct a series of buildings in the locality.
Similarly , a ward president of a political party in Katraj opened a construction company office on his property . Soon, with the help of moneylenders and landlords, he started a construction project.
There has been a rash of construction firms in fringe villages over the last five years. While some have stayed in the business and have constructed many residential buildings, others are fly-by-night builders who invest money in a piece of land, build an apartment, make money and disappear from the scene. Violations of construction norms are routine.
Illegal construction business is on boom in city fringes.
“There are no prerequisites such as qualification or expertise needed to enter the construction business. Illegal constructions are coming up because these socalled builders are able to get away with what they are doing. There is no strong deterrent to curb illegal constructions,” said Rohit Gera, vice president, CREDAI PuneMetro. Gera pertinently notes that such builders could have been stopped on their tracks if they hadn’t found support in government officials and also consumers. “Those who are responsible for permitting or ignoring illegal constructions should be penalized,” he said.
Those with projects in the city’s fringes said there are no checks in place. Sachin Kulkarni, managing director of Vastushodh Projects, which has several projects in the city's fringe areas said the town planning depart ment sanctions projects, but does not inspect the quality or safety of construction.
Government officials blame ‘political pressure’ for sanctioning plans under duress and lack of staff to carry out on-site checks. Clearly, there are no norms being followed with buildings coming up on amenity spaces, forest land and even on water bodies.
Take for instance the illegal constructions in Shindewadi where developers illegally excavated foothills to construct buildings. This came into sharp focus last year when a woman and her daughter were swept away in flash floods because of the hills being excavated for buildings and construction debris piling up. Following the tragedy, the district collector office had initiated a demolition drive.
But such violations are not limited to the fringes. In Pune city, a builder constructed an 11-storey building, while the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had given permission only for seven floors. Though the case was brought to the notice of the corporation, no action has been taken so far.
Within city limits, the district collectorate grants permissions for land use and the town planning department checks if the construction is as per the original plan.
Until 2010, for constructions out of the civic limits, local gram panchayats were authorized to issue building permissions, which the state government stopped when it found haphazardly-constructed buildings and massive use of FSI. The district collectorate and the Town Planning (TP) were brought into the picture, but the rot had run deep by then.
Developer and another vice president of CREDAI Pune-Metro, Shrikant Paranjape, said that town planning department needed more qualified manpower to examine the safety aspects.On ground, buildings are coming up without any heed to construction norms and RCC consultants are not even consulted in many cases.
After the Narhe tragedy , the district collector office, the PMC and the TP department announced action against illegal constructions, planned surveys and also filed cases against builders and others involved in this activity. But such action notwithstanding, in fringe villages, life has moved on and it's business as usual for builders.
Times of India, Pg. no. 1 & 3
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