Unauthorized constructions and land grabs are not new to the city and suburbs, but in Vasai-Virar, the illegality has turned so brazen that builders have taken to social media to openly advertise projects built on encroached government and reserved plots.
Recently, the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) was stunned to see a video on YouTube posted by a ‘property guru’ who identified himself as Madan Sagar from Shree Estate Agency. The video, which was uploaded in August and garnered 90,000 hits, advertises chawls in Kopri and Virar (east), all built on encroached government land.
The advertisement gives visitors a sneak peek of the 200sqft one-room kitchen with attached bathroom. The cost of the house—with kitchen cabinets and fancy tiles —is Rs 4 lakh by cash. The advertisement clarifies that no loan will be provided and ‘BMC’ water will be “available” daily. However, one crucial thing missing in the video is the fact that the chawls stand on government land and the sale agreement will be forged.
Vasai illegal homes built over weekend, sold on Monday
However, days after the video was widely circulated, it was taken off You-Tube. “Several online advertisements for illegal chawls in Vasai-Virar region have sprung up,” said VVMC commissioner Satish Lokhande, adding that Shree Estate Agency’s video was recently brought to his notice. Lokhande said the demolishing illegal projects on a regular basis and the online advertisements have often acted as tip-offs.
An official said those buying these rooms are mostly migrants. “The general belief is that only the labour class gets conned by such projects which have mushroomed along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad national highway. Several white collar workers have also bought rooms here,” said the official.
In May, the VVMC razed more than 5,000 chawls that had come up on forest land in Bhoidapada in Vasai (E). “Here too, each room was sold for Rs 4 lakh. The occupants had water and electricity connections,” said the official. But the official said after the demolitions, the rooms sprung back within weeks. A source said that rooms with cement walls and asbestos roofs were constructed over weekends. “The construction begins on Friday and the rooms are ready for sale by Monday. A number of rooms are sold while their bricks are laid. The remaining are put up for sale online,” added the source.
Lokhande said their budgetary allocation for carrying out demolitions has doubled since the past few years. He said that around 12 civic officers, including some assistant municipal commissioners, have been suspended for turning a blind eye to illegal constructions.
On www.vvcmc.in and through posters, the civic body has warned people against buying property without cross-checking with town planning department. “People buy illegal properties and then blame us when we go to demolish it,” he added.