Source: Times of India
MUMBAI: Pratibha, Mumbai’s original tower of corruption, is finally being razed to the ground 35 years after massive building violations were detected and exposed by then city collector Arun Bhatia.
The skeleton of the building, located in the tony Pedder Road-Breach Candy area, has been standing as a mute testimony of the city’s first major FSI (floor-space index) scandal. The top eight illegal floors of the 36-storey tower were demolished by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) by the mid-1990s.
Each floor contained two sprawling flats. Among the original buyers were high net worth individuals, NRIs, and private firms, besides playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.
The building’s ‘housing society’, comprising 35 members, recently decided to pull down the remaining 26 floors. When TOI visited the building, demolition work was on in full swing. Several workers on the higher floors were seen razing pillars and columns. The site has been barricaded, with security guards at the entrance. Signboards warn passersby of falling debris. Motorists have been told not to park their vehicles in the lane.
Speaking with TOI from Dubai, Jayant Vora, the society’s secretary, said members are yet to decide whether to rebuild the tower or sell the land. “We had no option but to pull the edifice down because we have to accommodate all the members,” he said.
In 2012, the society had invited bids, with a reserve price of Rs 900 crore for the entire property. It was rumoured that Breach Candy Hospital was interested in it to expand its premises. Subsequently, there were no takers at that price.
The Pratibha scam first hit the headlines in 1984 when collector Bhatia conducted a postmortem on building sanctions. It was found that the builder had falsely declared the plot area as over 9,282 sq m as against the actual, over 7,197 sq m. The false declaration helped the builder gain additional floor space of 27,000 sq ft.
Talking to TOI on phone from Pune, Bhatia, now retired, said he was transferred soon after he exposed the scandal. “There were many officers involved, but I don’t know if anyone was ever punished,” he said.
Former municipal commissioner Sharad Kale, during whose tenure BMC demolished the last of the eight illegal floors, said the building’s architect had altered land records to increase the construction area. “As far as I can recollect, the superintendent of land records of the revenue department was jailed,” said Kale. “Society members will gain if they rebuild the tower as FSI laws are very liberal now. They will get bigger flats.