Mumbai, 25th February, 2016: Common people rarely turn up in good numbers to openly speak out against powerful builders, and so it was an unusual sight that about 200 rich and poor persons aggrieved by RNA Corp (owned by late Anil Aggarwal, Gokul Aggarwal, Anubhav Aggarwal and Saranga Aggarwal) stage a roadside gathering near Versova, Andheri West, to speak out against RNA Builders. In this unusual gathering on the morning of Sunday, 21st February, 2016, the well-to-do persons were aggrieved buyers who had booked flats in various RNA projects such as RNA Exotica in Oshiwara, and RNA Palazzo and RNA Grande in Kandivali. The poorer participants were those dishoused and dispossessed by RNA's SRA or MHADA redevelopment projects. Many in the gathering voiced their grievances openly before a hand-held video camera, knowing that every word that they said was being recorded for publishing in the public domain. A major chunk of the gathering, who had already formed associations for their RNA projects, floated the idea of forming an RNA Victims Federation and exchanged contact addresses. Of the 200 persons, about half were from Aramnagar in Versova, over which the possibility of going under redevelopment by RNA builders looms large, like a dark cloud. These residents of Aramnagar were consumed by their own internal politics and internal quarrels sown by the builder. The other 100 persons were from RNA projects in different parts of Mumbai, and managed to speak in a clearer voice, which is captured in the below videos.
These eleven short videos show what RNA's victims said at the roadside meeting.
Highlights of the meeting:
a) Thousands of people who booked flats in RNA Corp. projects in Goregaon, Kandivali, and Project affected people from Andheri, Ghatkopar, Malad, Worli Wadala, Sewri, Chembur, Mira Road etc., and got a registered agreement or an allotment letter, were awaiting possession of their flats in 2012-13. But then they were informed that these projects -- RNA Exotica, RNA Palazzo, RNA Grande, RNA Metropolis, etc. would be delivered about two years later. Those two years came and went in 2014-15, but the possession date is nowhere in sight even today. Meanwhile, many of these customers have been sent notices asking for payment of another big chunk of money, although most of them have paid about 75 percent of the total flat value, without any assurance or commitment from the builders' side about when their flats will be delivered to them.
b) Over and above late delivery, there are multiple grievances for those who booked a flat in RNA Exotica. The ceiling height of floors above 20th floor have reportedly been changed without the buyer's consent. Buyers in RNA Exotica, who had paid a floor-rise premium for a very high-rise flat (such as 41st floor) may now have to settle for a much lower floor, as the building hasn't got permission to go over 36th floor. Also, the buyers were not informed of a PAP building being built in the front side of the same compound, abutting A-wing of RNA Exotica; how many premium flat buyers want to share their residential plot with rehab-component slum dwellers and project-affected people? Further, it is questionable whether RNA Exotica will ever get an Occupation Certificate, as the builders are reportedly converting some mandatory refuge areas into habitable flats and selling them.
c) Some investors are feeling jittery because RNA Corp has of late defaulted in repayment of bank loans, resulting in their mortgaged collateral being auctioned for debt recovery. After the demise of Anil Aggarwal in May 2014, sons Anubhav and Gokul Aggarwal seem to be finding it tough to keep the company''s fortunes afloat... or so it appears! The question in the minds of investors who have already paid 75 percent or more of the total consideration for their flat, and are now being sent notices by the builder to pay further installments is: Are our funds safe in the less-experienced hands of Gokul and Anubhav Aggarwal?
d) Many of these aggrieved investors have formed project-wise associations and are now considering forming a federation of RNA projects across the city. The idea of the "RNA Victims Federation” including people from across the city, including western and eastern suburbs, may take root if enough persons take initiatives.
e) The aggrieved flat purchasers and original tenants/ home owners in redevelopment projects discussed the idea of approaching Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in large numbers to discuss their problem, and asking for some actions and ultimatums against RNA, such as halting further project clearances. They also discussed filing Criminal / Civil Petition in High Court. Some have already filed complaints with EOW and are waiting for FIR to be registered.
f) From Mira Road to Walkeshwar, there must be five to six thousand victims of RNA builders, reckons activist Sulaiman Bhimani, who has been exposing RNA's various scams for the last seven years. It is proposed that all these victims come together -- at least one member per flat -- and put pressure on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to take cognizance of RNA's habitual defaults.
g) Many of those who booked flats in RNA projects have discovered that their purchase agreements actually do not specify a date for delivery of the flats. And now they are wondering whether they are responsible for their own misery! If they go to court saying that RNA builders defaulted by not giving them possession of their flats in 2012-13 as promised, will they be rebuffed because they signed a faulty agreement? But the answer that emerged was that the builder was liable and not the consumers who signed the cleverly-worded agreements under duress, after having paid lakhs of rupees for booking. Also, such faulty documents which did not contain all the conditions necessary for safeguarding both the parties, could be rectified according to due process of law.
h) Since builder is charging you 18% interest if you delay making payment, he should also pay interest at 18% of the value of the flat for delay in delivery of possession by one year. Flat owners are entitled to move the consumer forum to seek compensation for delay in delivery of possession by the builder. Delay in possession recently cost this Navi Mumbai builder Rs 64.84 lakhs!
i) Project-affected persons (PAPs) who are aggrieved by RNA Corp's unlawful redevelopment may be able to hit back by getting the bank loans extended to investors cancelled by the banks. For instance, if bankers have connived with RNA builders to approve loans for 15th floor flats in an RNA building that has only 10 floors, may file a complaint to the bank's higher-ups and get the loans cancelled. State Bank Of India (SBI) is reported to have cancelled such a loan following a complaint.
j) The unholy nexus between RNA builders and Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MCGM) has resulted in many project affected persons, home-owners and tenants in RNA's redevelopment projects being dispossessed of their rights, and running helplessly from pillar-to-post for justice. Judiciary provides reliefs only sometimes, not always, but these individuals have to fight many legal battles extending over years and decades for such reliefs.
k) Although 179 out of 322 tenants of Azadnagar BMC chawls in Wadala opposed RNA Corp entering the scene as redevelopers, RNA somehow managed to sign an agreement with proxy signatories and take over the project. The tenants, who had been resettled there in 1944 after the blast in docks near Masjid Bunder, have been fighting a legal battle since in 2001. Their houses were demolished in the middle of the night without giving any time or alternate accommodation till the consent terms were signed before Bombay High Court.
l) A woman affected by RNA's illegal Redevelopment activities in Chembur disclosed how RNA builders and their men cleverly sowed dissent among the managing committee members to keep them divided. More significantly, she revealed how, by making political heavyweight Narayan Rane the chairman of the defunct local union, RNA Corp has largely silenced the residents.
m) Another woman who was part of the managing committee of her BMC chawl in Sewri, was dishoused and dispossessed from even basic membership of the cooperative housing society. She talked about her 11-year struggle with RNA Corp, BMC for securing her basic human rights, which she was being continually denied. She revealed how the residents of this “baithi chawl” i.e. old and settled chawl, were forced to live on the roads after demolition of their chawl. She also pointed out how RNA illegally exploited the FSI and TDR component of the adjoining municipal school and MCGM playground.
For contact details of speakers seen in the videos, call Sulaiman Bhimani 9323642081.
Issued in Public Interest by