The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Harassment hounds home repairs
- Rising complaints force mayor to throw building rulebook at cops and touts

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has embarked on a campaign to check harassment by police of citizens repairing their homes.

With the number of complaints lodged by home-owners making legitimate changes to privately-owned premises growing, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided to send a copy of the CMC’s building rules to the inspectors-in-charge of the 38 police stations in the city.

Most complaints lodged with the CMC have been against police and touts employed, allegedly, by some councillors. “I have received complaints lodged by house-owners who have been asked by local police to produce permission from the civic building department for plastering the inside walls of their homes,” said Mukherjee. Another complaint was lodged by a flat-owner, added the mayor, who was asked to meet the local councillor for tiling his kitchen walls, an “unauthorised act” which, the owner was told, required a permit from the CMC building department.

The landlord-tenant relationship in Calcutta is perpetually strained, the mayor added. “Tenants in Calcutta lodge complaints even if a landlord undertakes repairs of his own building,” said Mukherjee. This has, apparently, become yet another excuse for extortion, on threat of further harassment, by police and councillors’ touts.

But the CMC Building Rules of 1990 allow eight types of repairs, with no prior permission or notification. These include:

4Repairs of the staircase and lift shaft

4Painting or whitewashing of walls

4Change of flooring of a room or a building

4Putting in a false ceiling on any floor of a building, if required for air-conditioning, better lighting or beautification

4Plastering of walls

4Sealing of interior doors or windows and creation of ventilators (which are not directly opposite a door or window of a neighbouring building)

4Replacement of displaced bricks or stone

4Change or repairs of plumbing

If a landlord wants to reconstruct an old roof without changing its character and size, or if he chooses to construct a partition wall, he is required to give notice, 15 days in advance, to the municipal commissioner, giving the details of the work to be undertaken. These tasks are to be carried out under the supervision of CMC structural engineers or building surveyors.

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