Bribery is the norm in the construction sector in India


Grease, grit and grime

Bribery is the norm in the construction sector. Since clearance is a long-drawn process, developers take the easy route; they pay big bucks and flout all rules

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G R Khairnar, former deputy municipal commissioner of Mumbai, is infamously called the Demolition Man in the city’s real estate circuit. In the 1990s, he took on underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and decided to demolish 200 illegal buildings owned by the gangster. “I was given the post because there was a huge public outcry against illegal structures,” says Khairnar.

But he could demolish only 30 of them. “The chief minister and the municipal commissioner started putting pressure on me to stop the drive,” he says. When he paid no heed and demolished the 30th building too, he was suspended from duty. Khairnar has seen corruption and lethargy in the building clearance system up close and personal. “The clearance system encourages corruption and violations,” he says. No-objection certificates (NOCs) are issued only after bribes are paid. “Otherwise, applicants face inordinate delays,” he adds.

A developer at Kolkata who did not wish to be named shares his experience. While constructing a three-storey building in a business hub of the city, the local elected councillor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) asked him, “Why not add two more floors? I am there to help you”. Had the developer agreed, he would have had to pay at least Rs 1,000 for every square foot (1 square foot equals 929 square cm) constructed illegally. “Here, property sells at Rs 10,000 per square foot,” he says. His refusal, however, meant his building plan did not get the completion certificate.

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