Bring the Apartment Associations under RTI
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In the rapidly growing urban Indian landscape, with a large number of people migrating to the cities in search of livelihood, multiple apartment complexes are mushrooming. Given the scale of these complexes and the people with different backgrounds living in these complexes, lots of challenges and problems also exist. Associations exist to manage these complexes but what lurks behind the scenes in many of these associations is very much a cause of concern.
Some owners form the Managing Committee to manage the association in the initial stages when many other owners have not moved in or after lobbying with the builder. In the garb of doing social work like arranging for interior designing works and tenants, they earn the goodwill of some owners. Little do these naive and gullible owners, many of whom stay outstation, realize that a consultancy is being run and commission worth lakhs of rupees are being made by these Managing Committee members. Estate Manager/ Supervisor in the association, is generally a front for such activities and to make it plausible.
Cutbacks are taken on every possible occassion, right from purchase of consumables like floor cleansing liquids to the awarding of the Security or Housekeeping Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC). Illegal structures are erected for the benefit of the Managing Committee members and their families exposing the association to court cases pertaining to acts of negligence. Association funds are spent for social causes also but on the sly to further personal business interests. Not surprisingly, the lifestyle of the Managing Committee members change, many of whom do not have any regular jobs.
Events are held along with photo sessions to make a display of harmony in the premises. Maintenance of common areas is degraded and a charade is put up that the association is being run with very little expenditure.
Owners who get a scent of their activities and ask for transparency or accounts are harassed; sub-committees are formed consisting of a coterie around these Managing Committee members who condemn the innocent owners, ignoring their concerns and in turn accusing them of harassing the 'busy' Managing Committee members. Emergency meetings are held where the Managing Committee and their coterie intimidate the innocent owners; their electricity connection is cut, garbage is not collected or access to facilities like Club House is denied. Staff is instigated to raise complaints. Threats of police complaints or court cases follow and apology letters are extracted from the innocent to discourage other owners. Even the helpless senior citizens are not spared.
Annual General Meetings (AGM) are held annually in a shabby manner and no meaningful discussion takes place; expenses which were never incurred are cleverly concealed as pertaining to some 'repairs' or 'purchase'. The coterie around the Management Committee creates an ugly scene when owners asking questions stick to their ground.
Honest citizens who buy the apartments after suffering inordinate delays at the hands of the builder now have to suffer at the hands of the Managing Committee of the association. Hence, it is high time that the Apartment Owners Associations are brought under the ambit of RTI. The government should also make the state act more robust as per the legal framework; criteria could be associations whose income from maintenance exceeds a particular amount provide detailed accounts including inventory to the registrar. Certain more changes could be made, like approvals should also be taken from the AGM before going in for purchase/ expenditure exceeding a particular amount. There should be an appellate authority (maybe a retired judge) to hear for the grievances of owners and consumer protection act made more stringent pertaining to the associations.
This petition would be forwarded to the Law minister (Karnataka State), Consumer Affairs Minister (Karnataka State) and to the Chief Minister (Karnataka State) and also to the Union Law minister, Union Consumer Affairs Minister and Prime Minister of India so that it can be implemented across the states.
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