Housing societies facing endless harassment from the administrators appointed by the government for the functioning of housing societies claim that powers vested to the department are being misused.
Activists claim that the recent few incidents involving staff of the Department of Cooperative Societies involved in the graft cases are an indicator of the same. These cases are just a tip of an iceberg and enough reason to call for a course correction in the form of improved policy required to root out corruption and curb malpractices done by the Registrars and their teams on the housing societies.
On February 11, 2021, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested H West (Bandra West) ward’s deputy registrar of co-operative societies Ganesh Rathod and his assistant Gautam Vardhan for accepting a bribe of Rs 1 lakh.
Another instance was in December 2020, when the ACB arrested an official from P-ward (Kandivali East) of Deputy Registrar, Bharat Kakade and his son on graft charges. In this case, the official allegedly sought a bribe to permit the society to utilise its sinking fund.
In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, there are over 50,000 co-operative housing societies and growing each year as the population and migration to the city is on a rise. With a conservative estimate of 40 families in society and five members per family, the number sums up to a crore, only in the state’s capital, keeping aside other cities.
The measures in place to ensure fair, transparent and judicious functioning of housing societies by appointing administrators by the Registrar has become more of a harassment than a mechanism to put the record straight.
As a result, it is the societies and the residents who are at the receiving end either through the appointed administrators who end up overstaying or through the officials at the registrar’s office.
“Housing society administrators work in total defiance of the law. In the case of society in Bandra, since 2016, that is for five years, the housing society administrators have failed and neglected to call an AGM. An administrator’s tenure is not more than six months. This in itself is good enough ground to prosecute them,” said Vijay Kalantri, an industrialist and former politician.
According to experts, some of the most commonly used ways to pressurise the societies and its managing committees includes banning the office bearers for 3-5 years from contesting elections, sacking the managing committee, demolition at housing societies and at people’s flats, initiating building’s redevelopment process, carrying out major repairs without the approval of members, etc.
“It is high time that the Maharashtra government appoints a person with strong legal credentials to look into the issues and overhaul the system only to come to the rescue of the harassed residents, as societies have become a cash cow for such unscrupulous individuals,” said Lillian Pais, AGNI Coordinator, H-West Ward.