The whole business stinks. Real estate in Tamil Nadu is nothing other than a nefarious nexus between builders, officials and politicians. How else can you explain the fact that the last one month has exposed scandal after scandal in this sector, each of which has shown that malpractices continue unabated with everyone cocking a snook at the law?

Let’s start with the latest. A building in Vadapalani caught fire owing to a short circuit. Four people died and the casualties could have been much worse were it not for the efficiency with which the fire service responded. The media, of course, made much of the way some residents swung out Tarzan-like or threw their children down to waiting people below. It was what emerged the next day that showed how avoidable the whole tragedy was. The building had been constructed in complete violation of norms. The Corporation had sealed it in consequence. The owner, a political party functionary, cared two hoots for such bars placed in his progress and proceeded to rent out the place.

What is amazing is that tenants, knowing full well that the structure was illegal, rented it. And because the entrance had a Corporation seal, they used a rear stairway for their entry and exit! What is even more surprising is that the Electricity Department provided power connection and meters to this building. And, of course, why the Corporation officials sat quiet after they saw a structure they had sealed being in full occupation is the biggest mystery. Looking back at the whole episode, you realise that there were violations by everyone concerned and such a deadly cocktail had to end in some catastrophe such as what took place. Did those who rent space in this building imagine that disasters happened only to other people? They are as culpable in this crime as the owner and the officials.

The next concerns the blanket ban imposed by the High Court of Madras on the approval of unauthorised layouts. This caveat was in place for over three months and yet, during this time, it has emerged that over 9,000 such plots were actually registered! It just goes to show that the officials, the buyers and sellers just did not care about the law and assumed that at some point in time, their transgression would be regularised one way or the other – either by one of those periodic pardons that our administration is so well known for, or the other underhand methods which are anyway always available.

The third relates to illegal sand quarrying in the riverbeds of Tamil Nadu, most of which are conveniently bone-dry any way. This again has been going on completely in the open and, chiefly, to feed the real estate/construction industry. Everyone is aware of it and yet nothing can be done because of the deadly mafia that controls the trade. Recent reports have exposed how everyone, leaders in power and those in the opposition, is in the pay of this coterie, which, by continuing this wholly illegal quarrying, has caused untold damage to our rivers. The beds have all gone down in depth, thereby allowing for erosion and rendering irrigation systems useless.

The law will take its course in each of these cases though what will happen to most violators we can’t be sure of. But what hurts is that all this makes us, the law-abiders, appear like fools. Are regulations and legislations only for us? To what effect then these Master Plans, rules for set-offs and adherence to plans that the Corporation and CMDA impose upon us?

Note: Image for representational purpose only.