Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ambegaon mishap; How many more lives to lost?

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his powers….Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, artist, and writer. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades & needless to say the above quote tells us why he is so popular! It’s been nearly an year when last building has collapsed in taljai taking nearly eleven lives & that time only I have said this may be first but surely not last building to meet such fate & the ambegoan building proved me right within an years span; though I am not at all happy for being proved right for such a cause! Friends lots of things have already been written in every media as usual, a scene which we all have so much used to now that its feels like watching a soap opera or a serial on TV channels where channel may be different, characters may be different, name of serial may be different but the audience & the script is same! In our case even the characters are also same, only the faces which are playing the characters have changed!

Yes the name of building is different & fortunately this time only one life has been lost but then that one was only son of some old parents who were seeing dreams of his marriage & life ahead, which got shattered in one single act of sheer negligence of a system which we call real estate! At the same time nearly fifteen families which are typical middle class who buys a home once in their life time have lost everything & literally are on streets now for not even knowing whose fault it is? Here is where the quote by Mr. Dylan hits us, as what the real estate has today is heroes who wants the power but denies the responsibility with it! Many will counter argue or differ with what I say but no single person is taking the responsibility of this incidence where as every single person in for their different roles wants every benefit from the real estate booming around! For e.g. when we say a building has collapsed & made losses, then let’s see had it not been collapsed & made money; then who would have earned what?
Obviously the developer comes top in the list, who makes money by selling the flats & earns his profit. Then comes the land lord who has no credit to his belt yet just land is scarce he enjoys the appreciation. Then the consultants in form of structural consultants as well architect who has role in designing & planning & makes money in the process from the developer. Then comes the various contractors & the suppliers who has been associated with the building by selling their material as well providing labors & gets paid for the same. Then come along the various authorities which in this case are town planning, collector; as these govt agencies do get their share in form of various development charges & premiums which are collected from the developer. And then there are financial institutes which earn their money by financing the builder as well the flat purchasers of the building! These are main beneficiaries & the list is on like MSEB which gets paid for the infrastructure, the grampanchayt for its noc’s. The state govt itself get paid via revenues collected by stamp duty on all such dealings of homes as well VAT & service taxes; then comes the income tax also which gets their cuts from the profit the developer makes & charted accountants as well advocates who makes various legal documentations for the projects & in all this we are referring to official money, leave apart the infamous black money & its uses involved in real estate!

Well so many agencies makes their fortune via a single building which is actually coming from the pockets of a family who pays their life time to get a home & now when the thing collapsed & gone to dust taking a life & all the hard earned money of these fifteen families, not single person or agency is taking the responsibility of this loss! Rather everybody is keen as our usual daily soap serial to prove other agency guilty! So I said its entire real estate which is at guilt as if no one is taking the responsibility of this accident then let’s hang the entire system!

That is why as a real estate person by myself I thought of writing my views to the authorities & sharing the same with you…

Ambgeaon Mishap!

First off all I won’t call this as an accident as its sheer act of negligence of one or more agencies related with the building & do mind, it’s not first & certainly not last building which has met such fate! It’s high time to look in the matter of illegal as well unsafe buildings before we lose more life & wealth which is mainly of middle class! And mostly trust or faith of common man on the entire system which is supposed to work to give them their hard earned home in safe mode! I am sure thousands of families living around that building must be having sleepless nights by worrying about their own homes status now!
For this let’s analyze the present scene of permission as well controlling the given permission for new building. Categorize the illegal constructions as mainly such incidences occurs in the buildings which are build by non professional & money minded builders! No harm in making money but at whose risk we make it is certainly matter of concern! A professional person not only will take necessary permission but will see that he builds a safe & good building.

So we have two categories here
1. Builders which has taken sanctions but that’s it nothing has been done like plinth checking as well occupation certificate.
Here we can check records of last five years where permission of building as well NA has given but nothing on record regarding plinth checking or occupation certificate. This means builder hasn’t done the job as per sanction. Make a team of one talathi i.e. lowest rank of revenue system & a person on field who knows the ground realities best, along with final year students of govt engg collage, allot them the sectors & provide them list of such sites along with plans sanctioned & ask them to visit the site & note down the physical site progress, with digital cameras crate a record first. And then we can issue notice as well take action for violation. Simultaneously once we have this data form a panel of technical experts & asses the workmanship of these sites so we can decide the fate of the building.
2. Builders who haven’t got any sanction yet buildings are there.
This is very tricky case as we have to divide entire collectorate in small squares like we do in survey & start noting down actual work at site & its quantum. This can be done by appointing professional surveyor agencies. All they have to do is first create a square map on regional plan & move square by square gathering data. And then we can put in technical team for workmanship & notices & procedures can follow.
In both the cases at least we can make aware the residents as court matters may take years & demolition of buildings which are occupied can be a impossible task but by making residents aware we can save lives from such mishap. Stick notices in red about technically unsafe buildings on the buildings itself as well publish their names & address in news papers!
At the same time if we don’t want to get such things repeated then we need to streamline the procedures & pinpoint the responsibility of every individual associated with building the project. To start with first & most important step is cut down the finances of the illegal structures, i.e. make all those financial institute party to the crime which finance such illegal structure by giving home loans when there is no sanction & if sanction is there then no plinth checking or occupation has get obtained, yet full disbursement happens. If you file police cases against such institutes which usually are “pat pedhis” or cooperative banks then it will cut down directly the inflow. A standard pattern observed is get a sanction for 4 storied building as it don’t need a lift & two staircases by law & then add 2/3 floors on it illegally, as for first 4 stories you get loan from any institute as its sanctioned & above floors they look for people without loan by selling them at cheaper rate or get loans from “pat pedhis” or private or cooperative banks which don’t go in details of sanctioning is the fact.
About assuring the workmanship we can ask for the record of foundation strata checking as well structural designers’ certificate for the same before getting plinth checking. Also get physical foundation photographs at site & keep it as record.
First of all, ask the concerned structural designer to submit periodical site checking reports especially of RCC work with stability certificate for occupancy certificate. Or make a panel of structural designers & get it done from them like we get search title report from lawyers on panel! And any violation or wrong doing at site will have to result in straight breaking of that slab!

Second is structural designer can give the designs of structure but the work has to be carried up on them & he has no control on that front, so make registered engineer or at least a qualified engg/ firm is a must for supervision. For e.g. if a slab has designed for M20 grade concrete then what if the developer & his contractor casts it below that level say M10 & then it’s not capable of taking the designated load? Similarly if the structural designer has given a design for 4 floors & on the site if the developer builds additional floors, then he will be helpless! So see that whatever the consultants have given is being constructed at site by professional agency.
In nutshell it’s most important to pin point the responsibilities of every individual associated with the project, i.e. developer, structural designer, architect & supervisor. Usually the contractors are non technical & just follow the orders from anyone above without applying their mind so what orders are reaching to them & via which agency is more important. And all above responsibilities must well documented & made available to the public on a website.
At the same time it’s been seen a typical stand by govt agencies that they shrug the shoulders by saying they have less man power & excuses like that; I think this has to be stopped. As if you want to have all controls of sanctioning in your hand then how can you deny the responsibility of the monitoring the same? Or else don’t sanction any project & outsource the sanctioning authority to the agencies who can take responsibility of monitoring their execution as per the sanctions! Govt happily takes all the huge revenue generated via real estate  but why can it provides necessary infrastructure like man power & technology to its agencies like town planning & revenue who has the sanctioning authority!
Here we can apply a survey agency to configure data from latest Google earth images for recording at present site conditions sector by sector, this is very important to know the level of site progress, it’s a mammoth job & correlating Google earth data will ease out location sites for ground team. But with all modern days technology at our assistance I don’t think it’s impossible.
Will be sending a list of five very vital & visible signs of poor concrete structure, we can publish those in news paper & make a separate cell at your end for this & appeal the people to contact this cell with exact address & snaps if possible if any three signs of above faults are noticed in their buildings where it’s been occupied already. This will save our time to locate these buildings & I am sure many people will come forward & mainly such faults occurs during first year of the occupation only.
Media also needs to dig in properly & go the root of such incidences & let people see truth instead just targeting some segment! After all what the common man should do in such times is all we want to know. At the same time as a fault buyer don’t go on saving few rupees by neglecting the structural aspects & for that ask for these details to your developer & talk with the consultants. Don’t ignore the faults like cracks in beams & columns & floor sinking in parking level! Inform the authorities immediately about the same & most important understand what is an illegal structure & ask for all the legal documents & for that do take help of professional people, as this is your responsibility towards your home! Equally important is role of real estate developers associations like CREDAI or MBVA, as they need to make home buyers aware on these issues, as when a building collapses then it’s not the member or non member of any organization but entire real estate’s reputation gets damaged! Let’s remember accidents one can understand but negligence & crime is something for which we are responsible only! And punishments to the guilty & justice in time are two things which only can check negligence & crime, & exactly these two are missing right now! We are not dealing with people’s life & life time earnings only, but their faith in the entire system & it’s this faith we should value most, if we don’t want another taljai or ambegoan incidence! As then only we will be able to call ourselves a hero or else needless to say we all will be the worst ever villains in the eyes of common man!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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