82% buildings in Thane unauthorised: RTI
THANE: No less than 82% of homes and commercial units in Thane are built and occupied in complete violation of development control rules. Thane Municipal Corporation’s property tax department made this revelation in response to an RTI query by activist Dayanand Nene. The TMC has admitted in writing that as on March 31, 2016, out of 1.7 lakh commercial and residential structures in the corporation limits, merely 30,336 or 18% are authorized.
The statistics also reveal that the volume of such unauthorized structures has been steadily rising over the past four years, indicating how the administration may be reportedly working in cahoots with the land mafia, said Nene. While in 2012, the ratio of unauthorized structures was 79%, it shot up to 82% in 2016. While in 2012, the number of unauthorized structures stood at 1.2 lakh of a total of 1.55 lakh buildings accessed by the tax department, it rose to 1.4 lakh in four years.
In 2016, said Nene, the maximum unauthorized structures were seen in Lokmanya Nagar, Wagle Estate, Kalwa, and Rayladevi areas, to name a few. The TMC has earned handsome revenue through property tax from these illegal structures, which collectively paid Rs 283.9 crore of the total Rs 345.9 crore collections during 2015-16. Barely Rs 62 crore was contributed by authorized buildings, Nene added. A recent query with the TMC revealed that Rs 20 crore of tax-payers’ money was spent on demolishing unauthorized structures over 14 years.
“The unplanned growth is evident from the recent extensive demolition drive conducted across the city, where even multi-storey buildings, have been pulled down. What were the authorities doing when these illegal structures came up in the first place,” asked Nene who was prompted by the recent drive to find out the quantum of unauthorized structures in the lake city.
An architect working with the TMC claimed that the system, till recently, often encouraged developers to start projects without mandatory approvals. Developers would often execute projects and end up facing problems from officials who would either deny certifying their projects citing lapses.
Nene says he now wants to expose the veneer off the system and make residents realize to make a responsible decision when they vote in the forthcoming civic elections.
When contacted, deputy municipal commissioner, Omprakash Divte, in charge of the property tax department, said the figures include all taxable structures. “Structures that have a commencement certificate and occupation certificate issued by the corporation are classified as authorized and those that are awaiting OC or CC as unauthorized. The numbers can be misleading as the figures include shanties and slum tenements too, which account for a major volume in the city.”
Divte further said the classification by the department is done “purely” for taxation purpose. “Such units are liable to pay double the tax amount as penalty. The department doesn’t have the authority to classify the status of structures.”
Meanwhile, Nene has appealed to the chief minister to probe the TMC’s functioning.