Campa Cola jhuggi

Nov 15 2013, 10:26 IST
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SummaryItís not. Itís upscale, so break the law, make a t-shirt, summon an OB van ó and get away with it.

Itís not. Itís upscale, so break the law, make a t-shirt, summon an OB van ó and get away with it.

Just when the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) began its job of demolishing the illegal flats in the Campa Cola buildings in an upmarket part of South Mumbai, the Supreme Court gave the flat owners an unexpected reprieve. The same court had, in February this year, ordered the demolition, giving enough time to those affected to vacate the premises. The first stop-work notice was issued by the BMC to the builders in November 1984; it had earlier rejected the amended plans submitted by developers. In 1986, the developers had paid Rs 6.6 lakh for regularisation, but the BMC asked for an additional Rs 4.6 lakh. Another stop-work notice was issued in 1986 but the developers neither paid the additional penalty, nor stopped work. By 1990, the Campa Cola compound had seven buildings with 35 illegal floors, and all the flats were sold, some at a significant discount to the then market price. The purchasers of illegal flats knew as much because they got their houses cheap. In fact, they did not mind staying without regular water supply for more than 12 years, till 1999, when the high court directed the BMC to extend water supply to residents of one building.

After the February 27 order, the apex court gave a five-month extension till October, when it again extended the deadline to vacate by a month, to November. The illegal flat owners, some of whom own more than one apartment in the buildings, made good use of the interim period of eight months to rally support across political parties. They conceived and executed a high decibel ďsave Campa ColaĒ campaign, including havans, readings of the Quran and Bhagvad Gita, human chains in Marine Drive, peace marches, hunger strikes, screening of documentaries in multiplexes, T-shirts, badges etc.

By all accounts, the residents had decided on a face-off with the BMC ó in the eight months after the February order, not more than a dozen illegal flats were vacated. And as it turns out, things have worked out well for them. It is anybodyís guess if the demolition will happen next May ó the SC has now given time till May 31, 2014 ó when the country goes to polls, or even later, with the Maharashtra assembly elections scheduled in October.

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