Monday, March 31, 2008

BPS Scheme from GHMC

Few months ago, GHMC came up with Building Penalization Scheme (BPS) to 'regularize illegal structures and land' in Hyderabad' by imposing a penalty on the property owners. I wasn't even aware that such a scheme would apply to my flat and my apartment complex until one fine Saturday morning I was notified that I should immediately regularize my property for all the deviations made by the builder. The notice said that it was an 'opportunity' given to all the owners to pay the 'minimum' fine and get a NOC from GHMC for deviating from the approved plan. First question that came to my mind: why should I pay for the 'irregularities' committed by someone else. But later when I did a bit of research to find out more about this issue I came to know that it is the responsibility of the owner to do so as a law-abiding citizen.

Our flat owners association had a meeting with our builder and requested him to share this 'penalty' amount since it was he had flouted the rules and the buyers were ignorant about such issues; in fact they are not aware of the actual approved plan. But the builder outrightly disagreed with this proposal stating that the GHMC has mandated the owners (and not builders) to shell down the amount. Several questions arise from this development: What is GHMC trying to achieve from this operation? What is regarded as deviation from the approved plan? Which builder really shows you the so-called legally sanctioned plan before the buy the flat and tell you how much he's going to deviate and what would be the result of such a deviation? Is it good to 'legalise' the illegal structures this way, what would be the result on the environment and other disasters if means regularizing buildings that are a threat to eco-friendliness and conditions favoring urban living.

Okay, now that I live in flat that breaks the rules and is built according to a 'legally deviated plan', what is the next step? Should I pay the penalty for having been a consumer do did not bother to verify the building rules and regulations applicable in my city. What If I pay the penalty before the deadline and get a certificate from GHMC. Does it end any future plans from GHMC and similar bodies as and when they change their definitions of deviations and come up with new strategies to fill their coffers. No doubt, the present plan is aimed at fetching a few hundred crores of rupees for GHMC even if onw-fourth of the owners pay up by the deadline.

When enquired about the repercussions about failure to comply with such penalty norms, the builder openly said there is no need for us to even pay the amount and we can rest assured that there would be no resultant action and that nobody would demolish the building, perhaps the issue might get raised when we want to sell our property and the prospective buys insists on an NOC for deviations. In fact, some of the points that came up in our discussion with the builder are worth a mention here: The builder confidently said that no building in Hyderabad is built as per originally approved plan and that without deviations you will not get a livable space in the city. According to previous GO every builder could break the rules and it was a known issue. Beneficiaries included in the chain are government officials, financers, land owners, architects, surveyors and of courses the owners. Whereas apparently, the new GO is quite strict in terms of following the approved plan and does not permit any deviations whatsoever. One of the flat owners happened to be a home finance official, he was quick to add the there are several builders who have deviated to the extent of 100% while building and there are people living comfortably in such flats being fully aware of this issue. This was even more disturbing to learn how the home finance and builders’ nexus operated here.

The latest development here is the stay order on this scheme and the postponement of deadline by a month. When some of the owners were wondering what if they sincerely pay the amount and their neighbors don’t do so. In such an event what would the GHMC do? How can they demolish only a portion of an apartment complex? Are we being too conscientious in the whole issue? What if we wait and watch. Some others pitched in: well, we can do so but GHMC is sure to come up with heavier penalty if we lose this ‘opportunity’ to regularize our property. The bottomline: as a sincere, tax-paying, law-abiding citizen I should not think twice but just go ahead and pay the penalty, if not for anything, but some peace of mind!

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