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1

Why is it becoming more and more uncomfortable to live within one’s own country, among people that we took for granted shared our view of the world? 2014 marked the year in which family and friends turned into aliens and opponents. Conversations invariably broke down at the point where Narendra Modi was seen as the great white hope for India. No logic worked against a recitation of the wrongs of UPA 2, plus AAP not being mature enough or ready, plus the magic word – ‘Development’ that a likely BJP government was going to deliver. One’s misgivings about Hindutva had to remain as mere mutterings, among the pitying looks of cousins and siblings.

Now 2017 has arrived as the year in which it is impossible to be in a crowded airport or railway station without wondering how many of the people around you will look on with interest at a mob lynching some innocent, and perhaps even justify the act  with arguments if you dare to protest.  After all, on social media, it is educated and articulate people who are trolling any criticism of hyper-nationalism or Gauraksha. The deep discomfort in crowds of any sort makes me wonder if I am having a serious mid-life crisis, or my country has changed into something so unrecognizable that I have begun to believe the worst of my neighbours  and acquaintances.

My being a believer has fed much of my work, producing books on pilgrims and seekers, and finding faith resilient in the poorest toymakers and street vendors. Yet, today, I have also become uncomfortable with the religion I was born into because I feel no identification whatsoever with those who are making loud claims in the name of that religion with no regard for facts, truth, or the feelings of their fellow citizens. And, although this is a mere blip in our ongoing relationship, I have also begun to express increasing discontent and despair to my personal God in the face of what I perceive to be evil getting increasingly rewarded around me.

So many questions confront me on any given day.  Was a bottomless reservoir of hate and bigotry always present amidst our people? How do today’s lynch mob leaders tap into this with a single WhatsApp message and collect an instant crowd? How many who go by the label ‘Hindu’ actually rejoice at the wounding or death of a Muslim fellow citizen in our country? Visceral questions, with no easy answers.

Till a few years back, crowds meant something else for me.  As I  walked with Varkaris to Pandharpur, joined the immense human congregation at the Mahakumbh in 2001, met kaanwariyas at the Haridwar Shravan mela and at Deoghar in Jharkhand, climbed to Tirupati and Vaishno Devi, I saw the transformative power of collective faith. Caste distinctions recede on such pilgrimages, when the fellow believer begins to be called by a generic name – ‘Mauli’ on the way to Pandharpur, or ‘Bam’ on the way to Deoghar. Sharing of resources, helping others when they are weary or tired, breaking into a song of prayer together, all this is behavior that is par for the course on such journeys. All the years when I walked alongside them, I never saw the crowds of the faithful as potential murderers.

And yet, from recent events, it is obvious that some of the killers of Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan may also have been pilgrims at some point. As I think of the kaanwariyas carrying water and walking hundreds of kilometres, I can’t help but wonder at whether the ordinarily devout, the Durga Puja attendees and katha organizers have become members of predatory mobs?

Any attempt to answer this question must undoubtedly make us reflect on why we have failed to strengthen the secular fabric of India.  Prof. Ashis Nandy, who wrote An Anti-Secularist Manifesto in 1995, and who writes in his seminal essay The Politics of Secularism and the Recovery of Religious Tolerance, “I call myself an anti-secularist because I feel that the ideology and politics of secularism have more or less exhausted their possibilities”, has unpacked the concept of secularism painstakingly in the Indian context. Pointing out that religions in our part of the world have become split into religion-as-faith versus religion-as-ideology, he describes the latter as a “subnational, national, or cross national identifier of populations contesting for or protecting non-religious, usually political or socio-economic, interests.” For me, the religion as faith that I encountered as a pilgrim was distinct from the religion as Hindutva ideology that I abhor. The fudging of both by the SC verdict in the Manohar Joshi vs. N.B. Patil case in 1995 made it appear as if Hindutva was the sum of many cultural practices and beliefs, posing no threat to non-Hindus. But as we have seen so clearly in recent years, de facto Hindutva means aggressive posturing on the ground to pursue a nationalist agenda and protect distinct political and socio-economic interests.

If secularists have been unable to make such distinctions clear in the minds of citizens and voters, it is futile to once again hold Amit Shah and Narendra Modi responsible. Instead, it is clearly a result of secularists’ refusal to engage with questions of faith and identity in any meaningful way.  To many, religion and the way it is expressed around us seems too messy or backward to bother with. When I wrote in my books about the visible expressions of faith I had experienced first-hand, I often had friends wonder why I found the melas and the kaanwariyas so fascinating. Modernity, a desire for development, and a secular outlook means for many in my social milieu a complete disregard for the inconvenient, bedraggled, jugadu hordes of poor pilgrims struggling to reach temples and deities and holding up traffic in the NCR.

Kanwariyas
Kanwariyas

For such people longing for a ‘developed’ India that will leave all such messy struggles behind, a vote for Modi in 2014 actually meant a vote for an increased role for the private sector without the ball and chain of environmental safeguards dragging down corporate India. The rights of tribals and displaced communities, the increased disparities of income and the contrasts in urban India between utter comfort and utter despair didn’t cause upper middle class urban Indians to lose much sleep. As a society we have lived for far too long with the twin evils of entitlement and deprivation, and nothing in our environment encourages us to think beyond the interests of our family, caste, or class. Protecting secular discourse was not a priority for too many, unless it represented an attack on their own personal freedom.

Today when I share with my journalist friend Rahul Pandey a frustration with the lack of any political opposition to the tactics of the BJP, he says, “Na Ram hai, na Bam, sab chhalava hai.” (There is neither Ram, nor the Left, it is all wholesale fraud and deception.) He refuses to accept that the BJP is winning elections only on the basis of their WhatsApp armies.  “Why would WhatsApp work without any real work being put in?” he asks me. “The VHP have gone door to door, in village after village in UP, and tied dharm-raksha-sutra (Save your faith bands) around the wrists of lakhs of people in their homes. Which party can claim such cover? The Sanghis have conducted Swachhata Abhiyan (Cleanliness campaigns) in village after village. Their workers and volunteers remain visible to the public at all times. This is what makes their WhatsApp mobilization work.”

The Sangh and its affiliates have also perfected the art of silent communication at religious events with a cultural significance.  My activist friend Arvind Murti says, of a recent event around the Thrissur temple “I was there recently on an occasion where at least fifty thousand people were present, and a host of cultural activities were being put on. Not a single political leader from either the LDF or the UDF was present. The only visible leaders were from the Sangh umbrella organizations. It made me acutely conscious of how secular parties are missing important opportunities for communication by disregarding such occasions and festivals.” I knew exactly what he was talking about because I have been at the chariot festival of Chennai’s Kapaleeswar temple, when thousands of people converge in Mylapore in a completely apolitical celebration. However, the volunteers of VHP are still milling about among the people, distributing water and butter milk sachets. Somewhere, in interpreting  secularism as a lifestyle that shuns the mention of God or religion, secular parties and leaders have distanced themselves from  cultural practices that deliver their countrymen to the Sangh without protest or effort.

For Prof. Ashis Nandy, secularism and tolerance can only be recovered by re-connecting with the ideals of faith, not by denying them. He points to Gandhi as the believer whose compassion and tolerance stemmed from his religion, not in spite of it. For millions of poor Hindus, who have felt excluded from the prosperity of their secular, modern fellow citizens, the Sangh gives honorifics and titles that bring a role of prominence as an anti-Romeo squad member or a Gau Rakshak. Such actions may actually be bringing these people a legitimacy whose importance we are unable to comprehend from a position of eternal privilege.  If secularism’s goose is not to be well and truly cooked in India we have to prepare to move once more among our people and ask them the questions that matter. For this, it seems, we can depend on no political leader or party.

So if we are to reclaim the ground we have ceded to those who always talk of ‘hurt sentiments’ and explain each violent mob attack as an expression of the people’s emotions, we need to attack the idea of Hindus as victims. We need to bring such questions as the ones below in the public domain, whether through Whatsapp, social media or conversation. The idea of the majority community being victims in their own homeland is the biggest falsehood of the Sangh, being used to perpetuate fear and hatred in equal measure. ‘Have you ever been stopped from worshipping your favourite deity, or doing pooja in your homes?’ is something we can ask fellow Hindus. ‘If not, why do you feel insecure in your own home and country?’

‘Who are the people telling you your homes are in danger, your women are in danger? Don’t you believe your God is powerful enough to protect you and your family? Why then pick up arms and who do you want to attack?’

‘When you rush to attack and kill, whether for money/recognition/reward, don’t forget that you will have to account for it before your God. Yeh kaun sa Bhagwan hai  jo kisi insaan ko maarne ke liye majboor kar raha hai?

No great knowledge of religion or scriptures is needed to counter the majoritarian poison of the Sangh. All it needs is nudging the people to tap into their own faith of God being their protector, not the other way around. After all, in the crowds of pilgrims I used to travel with, each was seeking his or her own liberation, however hard and arduous the journey was.

Unfortunately, around a bend in the path and in our nation’s history, many of these seekers met not the God who would provide ‘mukti’, but the politician who demanded eternal slavery of mind and soul.

So are we, privileged and educated Hindus, up to having these conversations among ourselves?

Originally published here.

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A Twitter tag #JaiKisan is attempting to educate Indians on the realities and conditions of farmers in India. Farmers produce the country's food. They purchase inputs at retail prices, sell produce at wholesale prices. Unlike a lot of products, farm produce is relatively short lived and takes a long time to grow. A crash in prices basically means doom, because they have already invested in the produce. The reasons for their losses are many and varied. From the vagaries of nature to corruption depriving them of irrigation. From failed crops to bumper harvests with no value because demonetisation has sucked all the money out of the market. This year we saw excellent harvests of tomatoes post a good monsoon being dumped on the streets or cut down as they stood ready for harvest, because there wasn't enough money in the market and prices had crashed so badly, that even transporting them to markets for selling was a loss making venture.

There are other oddities and absurdities you will notice on the #JaiKisan tag. Take for instance Tuvar dal with an MSP of Rs5050/Qt when the input Cost is Rs6403/Qt. Not only is this loss making by design, the farmers actually got only Rs4200/Qt resulting in a loss of Rs2200/Qt. On the other hand, India imported 28 lakh tonnes of tuvar dal at Rs 10114/Qt. The input cost for wheat is Rs 1943/Qt, while the farmer got Rs 1525 - resulting in a LOSS of Rs. 418/Qt!!! Where is the sense in this? Why couldn't the government purchase from farmers at fair prices that covered at least input costs and ideally at least some profit, when they were willing to spend foreign reserves to buy for much higher prices? There are no answers.

This is particularly brutal for small farmers, who have to live on the profits off much smaller land. Is it any wonder then that over 72% of farmer suicides are among small farmers with less than 2 hectares of land? One would think that small farms are inefficient and therefore they are making losses, but that is not true, research after research has shown that small farms are actually between 200% to 1000% more productive than large farms in terms of harvest per area around the world. The problem lies in the greater productivity being over a smaller area, and thus not amounting to large enough profit in total. Yet small farms are clearly the answer if we wish to have maximum productivity from available land!

"Jai jawan, jai kisan" was a powerful slogan by then Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1965 at a public gathering at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. Today, the average income of an Indian farmer is around Rs. 6,400. What sort of life can a person afford with that kind of income? Is it any surprise that India is losing farmers at a rate of about 2000 farmers a day leaving the occupation nationwide?

All this boils down to policies. We seem to have lost a holistic view of what sustainability means to a country. The only time policy makers appear to pay attention to the plight of farmers seems to be when it is time to get votes. Then you have big promises and loan waivers. But the story of loan waivers too is not what it seems. While the perception of agricultural credit is that it would go to farmers, agricultural credit is for the agricultural sector. Farmers get maybe 35% of it, the rest going to industries and businesses related to the agricultural sectors, or as P. Sainath puts it, "the starving farmers of Malabar hill (an elite locality in Mumbai)". Most small farmers find it extremely difficult to get loans from the bank, even when they have the required documents, Others cannot get the loans when they don't own the land they cultivate (no collateral). This drives most farmers to seek loans from informal money lenders, even, in many cases money lenders taking loans from a bank and forwarding them to farmers at higher interest rates! Thus, farm loan waivers amount to maybe 35% of the waivers going to farmers, with the rest going to businesses and industries that are not in distress, while having no impact on the crippling loans taken from moneylenders (though the money lender may get a waiver if they took the agricultural loan from a bank to lend at higher rate).

There has always been a lack of foresight in our approach to agriculture. Influenced by large industries and what they wish to sell rather than listening to the person working the soil. The "Green Revolution" that relied heavily on chemical fertilizers brought a period of bounty that led to heavily depleted soil that cannot produce without heavy applications of fertilizers. The chemical damage to soil ecology, the contamination of ground water from the chemical runoff, the thoughtless push of GM crops like Bt Cotton (which requires more water than regular cotton) in places with depleting groundwater tables and dependent on scant rainfall.... All this has resulted in long term damage to the viability of agriculture and the economic sustainability of farmers. We are not able to see solutions beyond magic wands waved for votes.

Consider the absurdity of pushing GM crops when they have not proved as beneficial to small farms. All that it has resulted in is more resistant pests in return for some short term increase in production, that is already dwindling. On the other hand, the government is also pushing organic farming to prove some utility for cattle manure. Here is the deal. Organic farming depends on a robust ecology of the soil and surroundings with natural checks and balances that enable thriving crops. GM crops are accompanied with heavy doses of fertilizers, herbicides and as the resistant pests increase, pesticides as well - these destroy naturally abundant life forms that are necessary for organic farming. Pushing both at the same time basically squashes the farmer between two completely incompatible methods of growing crops. One from big industry influence, the other for ideological justification. Who pays the price? It is the cultivator, forced to stand with one foot on two stones, becaue while he may choose one method or the other, the ground water or pests do not understand boundaries indicating ownership of land and other cultivators may be making other choices.

This is but the tip of the iceberg. What is needed at this time is to ensure that farmers have an income they can live on - particularly where food crops are discouraged by the government in favor of cash crops that are at the mercy of market prices and cannot be consumed by the farmer for survival, regardless of the gamble with nature. There is a need to ensure irrigation on a war footing. There is a need to ensure low input costs and better sale prices. There is a need for an agricultural vision that is grounded strongly in research and making the country food sufficient and not dependent on imports to meet nutritional needs. There is a need to improve the capacity for food processing and storage with farmers so that they are not forced to sell at low rates for fear of perishability.

But all this needs a government with a vision. It needs citizens with voice interested in where their food comes from, and what the risks are, if that system is breaking down. in my view, the #JaiKisan tag serves this educational purpose in a time where agitating farmers from Tamil Nadu are protesting in increasingly desperate ways - sitting with skulls of farmers who committed suicide, eating rats, drinking urine, eating food served on the road and worse - with complete disinterest from a government that always makes a big show of concern for farmers when it comes to seeking votes.

I urge you all to read the content on the tag #JaiKisan and educate yourselves. The future food security of your children could well depend on it. The current survival of your food growers does depend on it. Happy next meal.

6

Contrary to the belief that the ever increasing attacks on doctors in India are isolated, much has to do with the deteriorating situation of law & order, crumbling public health infrastructure and evangelization of vigilantes.

According to the Indian Medical Association, 75% of doctors in India have faced violence. Although we don’t have any data for Maharashtra, from my experience, I could say almost every resident doctor in a Government hospital has either been abused or manhandled. The attacks are so frequent and intense, that BMC hospitals in Mumbai had hired a private security firm, Eagle Security a year ago. This security is apart from the police units stationed 24×7. And still doctors are facing some of the worst attacks. Previous UPA Gov’t passed Maharashtra Medicare Services Persons and Medicare Service Institution (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) in 2010. This law has been poorly implemented as the data speaks for itself. Even after constant assaults, not a single person was convicted in the last 2 years. Even though the imprisonment extends upto 3 years and the offence is non-bailable, the alleged attackers are bailed out within a day as it happened in Sion hospital after a Polio inflicted doctor was attacked 5 days ago.

The Cause

India spends only 1.4% of GDP on healthcare compared to 8.3% in US and 7.6% in UK. Even many African countries spend more on healthcare than India. As per World Health Statistics 2015, India’s per capita government expenditure on health in 2012 was a meagre $60, while the US spent $4,153. Central, State Governments and Municipal Corporations have evaded investing in healthcare for decades which has compounded the worsening of the situation. To make matters worse, Fadnavis led Government has actually reduced the health budget allocation for 2017-18 by ₹569 crores. The health budget of 2016-17 was in turn ₹1,308 crore less than in 2015-16. Maharashtra will also spend ₹900 crores less on nutrition schemes. Many ministers and spokesperson have repeatedly assured about increment in health budget, bu the reality is quite different. Public hospitals are constantly hit by shortage of medicines and staff. Patients being told to buy even IV and inhalational drugs in the casualty is a common sight, which obviously angers them. Resident doctors are at the front end of an inefficient, unjust and poorly funded public healthcare system.

IMA survey says 70% of attacks are due to relatives accompanying patients. Dozens of relatives, of which half are drunk accompany a patient in the casualty late at night. Even after constant complaints to the administration, this issue is never sorted out. Be it Dhule or Sion incident, every major assault was carried out by scores of relatives. On paper, only 1 relative is issued a visitor pass to be with the patient. As every other rule, this one lies in the dustbin too. One can’t expect a doctor to work properly who is under the constant threat of an assault. One can’t expect a surgeon to have a steady hand when he is perspiring due to fear.

Dilapidated infrastructure and horrible planning is the cornerstone of every Government project which is 10 times amplified in a public hospital. The X-ray room is situated almost 500 metres away from the casualty. There is always a shortage of wheelchairs and trolleys due to which, again, the junior doctors have to face the brunt, as they are the only ones present there. MRI, USG, CT scan appointments have a waiting period of months. Apart from the well-equipped trauma ward, every other ward has an issue. The resident doctors and interns do the job of class 4 employees due to lack of staff for tracing medical reports, carrying blood from blood bank, shifting patients to other ward. Many a times, I have personally trolleyed the patient to USG and X-ray. There is no clear distribution of duties among staff. Public frustration of this chaos is unleashed on doctors as we are the only ones they could identify.

Normally, only 2 or 3 resident doctors are present in the casualty at night. They are bound to provide only emergency care and diagnostics. Full treatment can only be issued after consulting with senior doctors. This process takes time which agitates patients. There is no counsellor to talk to patient. As the resident doctor has to take history, write notes, examine and provide emergency care; the not so important talking part takes the back seat. A faulty system like this, promotes more attacks on doctors. Not to mention, a resident doctor in a public hospital is overburdened. He/she normally works 14-18 hours a day with at least one 36 hours continuous shift once a week. In towns, such 36 hours shift is almost on every alternate day. Even a basic function like sleep becomes a privilege.

To avoid long queues in OPD, many patients come directly to casualty for instant treatment. Doctors can easily differentiate patients requiring an emergency or an elective care. Indian patients don’t accept oral drugs as they always expect IV drugs in a casualty. This delays the treatment of those who require urgent care. Most of them sit at home and visit the doctor only when the disease takes a severe turn. Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension can be easily managed by drugs, but due to non-compliance, patients come with severe complications requiring surgeries. OPDs managed by 6-8 doctors have 300-400 patients on a daily basis. Sion hospital itself caters to 20 lakh OPD patients annually. Despite all this, the Government isn’t interested in increasing the number of hospitals. Only 1 out of every 20 MBBS graduate gets a PG seat.

There is no fear of law among mobs assaulting healthcare professionals. Relatives of the arrested Dhule assaulters tried attacking a nursing staff outside the campus. A doctor in Sion hospital threatened of the same consequence of Dhule doctor if the patient doesn’t get well. A rural hospital ransacked in Sangli for an alleged delay in post-mortem. A casualty officer in Bhabha hospital, Bandra slapped. All within the past 24 hours, during the ongoing strike!

The Demand

Residents doctors are fed up with constant fake assurances and lack of proper implementation of current laws. Gov't keeps on repeating the same promises with a different date. The main demand revolves around providing improved security and limiting entry of relatives.

  • Appointment of more security and police personnel immediately
  • 2 pass system per patient
  • To start the installation work of effective alarm system in every casualty
  • To revoke all charges and action taken against resident doctors
  • Strengthening of 2010 law, no bail for accused for at least 3 months
  • Filing of FIR by the institution itself
  • To release funds to implement the law and appoint a brand ambassador to spread awareness for the safety and security of doctors
  • To enact a strict law to prevent trespassing in hospital
  • Formation of a vigilance team within 15 days
  • Formation of a legal cell withing 15 days

An Ortho resident doctor in Dhule was attacked on 12th March while the statewide strike started on 20th March. The violence was so brutal, that he had an orbital fracture and is feared to lose vision in his left eye permanently. The state Government remained dead silent for a week. In fact, doctors and interns in GMC, Dhule were threatened of dire consequences if they go on a leave. Fearing political pressure, the leave was called off in Dhule. On 18th March, after a helpless junior doctor was attacked in Sion hospital, 4,000 resident doctors decided enough is enough. Even after multiple meetings with Medical Education Minister, Girish Mahajan and Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, there is no visible improvement in the security as of now.

To make matters worse, CJ Manjula Chellur of Bombay High court said, “If doctors are so afraid that you will be assaulted then resign and sit at home. It is a shame on the profession if doctors go on strike like factory men. They are unfit to be doctors then.” This statement seeks of victim blaming, elitism and promotes violence against doctors. It’s a moral equivalent of saying, if women are afraid of rape then they should sit at home. Judiciary, Media and the Government are busy blaming doctors for everything that is wrong with our healthcare system.

The Present Status

As of now, the resident doctors of KEM, Sion, JJ, Solapur and Latur Government hospitals have got eviction notices and suspension of their degrees. According to resident doctors, water supply in PG hostel of KEM and Sion hospital was cut-off. MARD (Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors) has colluded with Girish Mahajan in breaking the unity of doctors by giving out fake statement of mass leave being called off. An utterly despicable tactic which is the hallmark of the current political discourse in the country. Media has played a disgusting role by siding with the Establishment and parroting their lies. No one is questioning the Gov't for their repeated fake assurances and rehashing their old promises with a different date. No primetime discussions on the dwindling health budget. Even when doctors join their duty again, this faulty health system will still persist.

Individual doctors of public hospitals and not MARD are involved in this protest. Although there is no official confirmation yet, MARD chapter in Mumbai has been dissolved. On 23rd March, more than 40,000 doctors of IMA & IDA joined in an indefinite strike by shutting down all OPD and elective services pan-Maharashtra. Dentists, interns, teaching staff, senior doctors, paramedical staff, nursing unions, class 4 employees in public hospitals are supporting this resistance. Medical Teachers Association has threatened mass resignations if security isn't improved within 48 hours. Over 10,000 doctors in 40 major hospitals except AIIMS, have gone on a mass casual leave in Delhi. Barring pseudo-scientific doctors union, everyone else is echoing #IssBaarAarYaPaar. As I write this article, a new union consisting of resident doctors, private practitioners, IMA members, lecturers, professors, SMOs, DNB doctors, ex-MARD members is being formed.

The emergency services in both private and public hospitals are still working due to senior doctors, nursing staff and interns. The healthcare system is affected, but we have tried our best to reduce the impact. IMA and resident doctors will evaluate about the leave after they get a written court order. Judiciary, netas, celebrities all get private security. All we ask for is improving safety in public hospitals.

The resistance continues.

Fire Brigade withdraws clearance to Golden Chariot Restaurant at Hub Mall, Goregaon

Mumbai, 14 March, 2015: Planning to kill yourself and your family after a tasty meal? Go to Golden Chariot Restaurant. Blocked fire-exits and various other dangerous practices makes this restaurant at Goregaon's Hub Mall your best bet at achieving a fiery death. Although activists like Shaikh Fakhruddin Junaid, Sulaiman Bhimani and myself have repeatedly pointed it out to Mumbai's Municipal Corporation and Mumbai Fire Brigade, the ability of Golden Chariot to bribe the powers-that-be and also abuse judicial processes has helped it to survive. But orders passed by MCGM and Fire Brigade in 2017 suggest that Golden Chariot's goose is being slowly cooked. After the restaurant finally caught fire on 29th December, 2016 (read newspaper reports here and here), civic authorities are finding it difficult to dodge their responsibility to ensure public safety by sealing it.
Planning to kill yourself and your family after a tasty meal? Go to Golden Chariot Restaurant. Blocked fire-exits and various other dangerous practices makes this restaurant at Goregaon's Hub Mall your best bet at achieving a fiery death.
Deputy Municipal Commissioner Kiran Achrekar and Deputy Chief Fire Officer V N Panigrahi have ordered the closure and sealing of Golden Chariot. Five days days after the fire, DMC Kiran Achrekar wrote in his remark to the official report, "Ask Dy.CFO to seal the premises for failure in safety measures."
 
The report indicates that because of the recent fire, the excuse that MCGM's previous notices and orders were subjudice at Dindoshi Court fell apart. Despite the DMC's instructions, the Deputy Chief Fire Officer dragged his feet for two months, but finally he wrote in his official recommendations on 6th March 2017, "...it seems there are discrepancies in the area, encroachment, unauthorized addition / alteration, construction of loft, etc. in the said premise... In view of the above, the NOC/requirement letter issued under no. FBL/S/106/1076 dated 01/11/2006 by this department stands cancelled."
While this is a encouraging, the fine print betrays the reluctance of MCGM and Mumbai Fire Brigade to take actually seal the restaurant. The last line of the CFO's recommendations hints that Golden Chariot may seek an escape route by contacting the MOH-P/S Ward for "fresh remarks from the fire-safety point of view after verifying the above facts". Many municipal and fire-brigade officials appear to have gotten used to getting their share of gold from Golden Chariot. So, public safety isn't exactly a priority. As the wise saying goes, "Apna kaam banta, toh bhaad mein jaye janta."

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

A defamation case against a flat-seeker?

Saturday, March 11, 2017
By Raju Vernekar

A flat seeker, who booked a flat in a housing complex Ekta Parksville in Virar West, is allegedly running from pillar to the post to get possession of the flat and states that the developers have filed a defamation suit against him.

According to the Vineet Malik, a resident of Gurgaon, Haryana, he had booked a flat at the construction Ekta Parksville in November, 2011 with an initial payment. Subsequently he says, he paid over Rs 27 lakh in installments covering cost of the flat, stamp duty, registration charges etc. According to Malik, he was given verbal assurance that the possession would be given in 2014. But when he got neither possession nor any assurance from the company, till late 2016, he began approaching concerned authorities. Malik says he is yet to get possession of the flat till date. Although the promoters should have specified the date by which the possession would be given in the agreement, as per the Maharashtra Ownership of Flat Act (MOFA) 1963, according to Malik, no date was mentioned.

In October 2016, Malik submitted a complaint to the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Dr Pradnya Sarawade, narrating his ordeal. He also filed a query under the RTI with the DG, Police. In response to the query, the Special IG Prabhat Kumar, on 3 November 2016, asked the Mumbai Police Commissioner to investigate the matter and file a report. Subsequently the Kherwadi police were asked to look into the matter, since the developer’s office is located at Bandra East. In turn Kherwadi police discussed the matter with Malik, giving him a promise to look into the matter. But according to Malik, the matter remained where it was.

Malik also alleges a violation of MOFA. The builder-buyer agreement, states that Upon possession of the said unit being delivered to the purchaser, the purchaser shall be entitled to use and occupy the said unit. Upon the purchaser taking possession of the said unit, the purchaser shall have no claim against the developer in respect of any item of work in the said unit or in the building or on the larger property which may be alleged to be defective or incomplete or undone.  Also, as per Section 3 of MOFA Act, the promoter has to specify in writing the date by which possession of the flat would be handed over. However the promoters, did not specify the date of possession of the flat and merely mentioned “As discussed”, Malik alleged.

When contacted API Raghvendra Kshirsagar of Kherwadi police station told Afternoon D&C that “apparently the case attracts MOFA because the flat seeker was not given possession of the flat in time. But since the housing complex is located at Virar, the case should be registered in Virar. As such we will consult our higher ups before transferring the case to Virar police station.He also mentioned that according to his knowledge the promoters are moving the court, in the matter.

When approached for their side of the matter, the company representative, in a telephonic conversation admitted that there had been delay in completing the project although some buyers have been given possession of the flat. However subsequently a PR consultant of the company, via e mail stated that the developer has filed a Special Civil Suit No.36 of 2017 against Malik since he himself had terminated the agreement related to the flat on 7 November, 2016 and he was offered a full refund of the money paid by him on 3 December, 2016. In light of this, he has allegedly has no right, title or interest in respect of the flat.

However in reply Malik maintained that he has not received notice of any such civil proceedings and the suit cannot be admitted by the Court unless he is given an opportunity to file a written response.

MOFA
The Maharashtra Ownership Flat Act-1963 has been superseded by the new Real Estate (Regulation & Development Act) 2016 (RERA), but MOFA is still in force in Maharashtra. In june 2016, the special inspector general of police Prabhat Kumar instructed police commissioners in the state to register complaints against errant builders who cheat flat buyers and violate building norms.

The circular said that complaints should be lodged against builders who fail to hand over possession on time to buyers and also the developers who deliver apartments without procuring the mandatory building occupation certificate. It also mentioned builders who build beyond the sanctioned plans or those who build illegally. The circular also sought action against developers who accept 20% of the flat price but do not register the agreement or those who fail to form a housing society within the stipulated four month, after handing over flats to buyers.

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Sulaiman Bhimani
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