The state government guidelines issued recently under ‘Break the Chain’ and the subsequent circular by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) asking housing societies to strictly implement SOPs or face penal action has sparked a new row. Such is the resentment brewing among the members of cooperative housing societies that their apex body, The Mumbai District Cooperative Housing Societies Federation, has decided to approach the state government to air their problems while implementing the SOPs and to seek clarifications.
Not only does the BMC circular issued on April 5 warn housing societies to adhere to protocols but threatens to slap a fine of Rs 10,000 for the first offence and Rs 20,000 for the second one. Further, the local police station has been asked to depute a policeman at a society which has been declared as the micro containment zone - where more than five active Covid cases.
If the policeman feels that the society is not following the measures suggested, he has been asked to report it to the assistant municipal commissioner (AMC) of the concerned BMC ward, says the circular signed by BMC Commissioner I S Chahal.
This has led to huge confusion, said Advocate D S Vader, secretary of the Mumbai District Co-op Housing Federation Ltd. “We are receiving a number of complaints, as well as queries on how to implement these SOPs. We have not been taken into confidence either by the government or the BMC,” he said.
Some societies feel the expectations of the BMC have put the elected bodies in a spot. Further, the SOPs have led to controversies and members have been finding them just impractical, said an office bearer of a housing society from Tardeo, requesting anonymity. The elected body of his society has asked members to fork out Rs 500 for not wearing masks and further tightened the rules for entry and exit. Members are complaining that they cannot ask anybody to visit their homes in hours of need. Senior citizens living alone are also finding it difficult to come down to collect household items delivered at the gates of the societies, as deliverymen are not allowed to enter, he said.
“We are being informed that at a number of housing societies, members have expressed strong displeasure or are losing their temper at the manner in which these SOPs are being implemented by the elected bodies of the societies,” Vader said.
In most societies, senior citizens are members of the elected bodies since youngsters refuse to work as chairpersons or secretaries due to the professional responsibilities or work pressure. These senior citizens are also finding the SOPs as difficult to implement, he added.
Besides, the problem is serious where the elected body has been superseded and an administrator has been appointed by the registrar of the cooperative societies. In such a scenario, the administrator just refuses to take up the responsibility and leaves it to the members. The concerned authorities should have given matters some thought before coming out with the SOPs, said the secretary.
Vader said the federation was likely to meet Cooperation Minister Balasaheb Patil or his deputy Vishwajeet Kadam on Wednesday or Thursday, with a request to address the issue. “We want more clarity over implementing the SOPs. Members of the societies are also not happy with the manner these guidelines are being imposed,” he said adding, announcements such as special police officer status to office bearers by the state government was not going to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, the state BJP has slammed the state government for its plan to designate office bearers of the cooperative housing societies as special police officers. Such a decision would vitiate the atmosphere and disturb the cordial relationship between the office bearers and the members, the state party vice-president Madhav Bhandari has said. The government should not make them party to its efforts to fight the pandemic. Such a decision will unnecessarily disturb the smooth functioning of the society, he has said.