Unauthorised Buildings – Conspiracy between Builders, Owners & CMDA

When the giving stops, so does the taking.

We all woke up to the news about Chennai Silks building burning down to ashes and the media going nuts pointing fingers at various government departments for allowing such a huge building without proper regulation, be it CMDA or the fire department or any other department. This would be a trending topic for the next few days before we jump into another issue. No one points the finger at themselves for being the silent party/spectator to the offence. If only we had the brains to boycott such businesses who do not respect the law, we would have had a better place. Not to mention the Govt authorities who are a mute spectator to the entire drama.

I recently bought a flat with India Builders, allegedly one of the leading builders in Chennai. There are a total of 6 flats, out of which 5 belong to the land owners with whom the builder is doing a joint venture and am the only soul from outside. Sometime earlier this year, it came to my knowledge that the builder has plans to carry out some unauthorized construction on the flat in the third floor and some deviations.

I raised this issue and concern with the Director of India Builders – Mr.Uttam Kumar who brushed it off as a minor deviation and that there should be no issues with the CMDA as they are taken care off. It was shocking when I was informed by him that it is not necessary for him to inform me as a flat buyer about the unauthorized constructions or deviations and went to the extent of promising me a written undertaking that no issues will be raised by CMDA. (I knew then that this is not coming anytime – Thanks to the law degree)

Since the day I raised the issue, they started to delay the work in my flat and as much as possible create complications even for the simplest of the matters. I was closely monitoring the work carried out in the building and there was nothing unusual. I had an opportunity to meet the other Director of India Builders Mr.Thambikalaignan sometime in March if my memory serves me right and I once again expressed my concern that I do not want any unauthorized constructions or deviations in the building. I was only reassured that they have done several buildings and have never faced any issue from CMDA. Neither did I receive an undertaking from India Builders. Meanwhile, I continued to keep a look out for any unauthorized constructions and there was none. On March 30, 2017 we received the completion certificate from CMDA.

On April 4, I heard sounds from the third floor and upon inspecting, I was shocked to see that they were demolishing a wall and the parapet wall of the open terrace area. As per the approved plan there were two open terrace areas. However, after getting the completion certificates, the walls were demolished to include the open terrace areas as part of their living area. Then they demolished the wall between the bedroom and the balcony making the balcony as part of the bedroom. I immediately raised this issue with India Builders and obviously there was no response. Instead the owner visited us to tell us how we should not mind for such small things and if objected how he can object to my 6 year old son playing in his car park area. I was like, WOW!

CC Dakshinalaya (2)

Open Terrace before at the time of obtaining the completion certificate
Balcony before at the time of obtaining the completion certificate
Open terrace 2 unauthorized constructions after obtaining the completion certificate
Open terrace 2 unauthorized constructions after obtaining the completion certificate
Balcony deviations after obtaining the completion certificate
Open terrace 1 unauthorized constructions after obtaining the completion certificate
Open terrace 2 unauthorized constructions after obtaining the completion certificate

They put the unauthorized construction work on hold and sat and cracked a plan to harass me. They locked me out of my flat on the ground that I need to pay the balance amount of about 4% of the total cost to even access my flat, filed a caveat in the High Court (at least they guessed that they are gonna get their ass kicked), delayed completion of the work in my flat, did not bother to respond to my email etc. I should agree that they were quite successful in diverting my attention that I had to focus on getting my flat keys than be worried about what they are constructing. Days flew by and I finally managed to occupy the flat on May 5, 2017, even before they finished the flat but expecting them to complete the flat was plain foolish. Then I had to leave to Barcelona for a conference and I returned last week. Meanwhile they have gone ahead and sealed one of the the open terrace area.

What’s shocking is the confidence the builder has on the authorities of the CMDA not raising an issue on unauthorised constructions and deviations. Secondly the malafide intention of building fake walls for the sole purpose of obtaining completion certificate and thereafter continue with the unauthorized constructions and deviations without an iota of fear of the law.

I will now have to move to the CMDA and if nothing happens, move to the High Court and am sure it would take years to see the light but I believe that this is the right thing to do.

If you are aware of any such issues and have actively stopped them from doing so, please do comment below your experience.

 

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Customer service done right (ACT Fibernet) Vs terribly wrong (Airtel Broadband)

act vs airtel

This month has been quite stressful with issues at work and at the new flat we finally managed to move in last week after India Builders locked us out of the flat. I was quite excited about getting an internet connection at home as I know that ACT was available. Positive reviews I have heard about ACT made me to take the jump to ACT though I have been a loyal Airtel customer for the last 12 years.

I took the ACT sales person number from my friend and after visiting the flat and discussing how to go about the line, applied for the connection. Was promised to complete installation within 4 days but for some reasons (getting it concealed, neighbor locking their place etc) it just got delayed and I was just too tired to fight (if you know the usual me) 🙂 and wrote them an email asking them not to deposit my cheque and cancel the connection or initiate refund.

Meanwhile, I called Airtel and they were happy to take the application without a feasibility check which later became an issue. After 2 days, I was told that some documents are missing and they are some delay. This after I called and asked what went wrong. They never gave a straight answer (not surprised) and they said it will be done in 3 days. I called Airtel customer support, but they do not have record of the application as it was outsourced. After 3 days, my application was logged and I got an SMS. I called customer care and tweeted and everyone just said they will get back with an update. No one ever came back. The engineer who was assigned to me never bothered to pick my calls (43 times to be specific) or return my calls. Ironically the Airtel engineer uses an Idea mobile. 🙂 Conference call after conference call after conference call, lies and more lies, the finally I met the engineer at the flat. The issue was straight forward. The builder has the concealed wire extended to the road at one entrance and the Airtel wire/box was available at the other gate. The issue now is to lay a cable between these two gates which is about 20 feet. I asked the Airtel engineer to lay a temporary cable who agreed and vanished. Few more days wasted. No one turns up. More calls and more lies. The most lethargic behaviour I have ever seen in the last 12 years from an Airtel engineer. This guy should 100% be fired. Sadly, he is the area engineer. Pity the Airtel customers in this area. I continue to use Airtel in my office and am very happy with their Kilpauk support team who always goes the extra mile to ensure that our work is not disrupted when we have any issues with connectivity.

Meanwhile, I got a call from ACT customer care executive Senthamizh. She knew the issue and apologised and requested a last chance. Likewise, the ACT team leader visited the flat and requested another chance and apologised for the mistake. I told both that we applied for Airtel and am sorry and that I look forward to use ACT soon. The team leader left his business card with me (which I left in my car) and the customer care girl wrote me an email and followed up with phone calls to refund my application fee I paid and in fact took my bank details to do a NEFT.

Fast forward from May 4 to May 12, I get a call from Airtel stating that it would take another 5 days for them to give the connection due to technical issues which he has no idea about. I was driving home when this call happened. I then decided to call the ACT team leader and Prema has his number on her phone. At 12:30pm she called ACT team leader Prem and check if they can give us the connection and how soon can they give. The team leader said he will check and revert ASAP. At 1:15pm I received a call from the sales guy who informed me that the whole team of Engineers, Supervisors etc are in my flat right now. I arrived at the flat in about 10 mins. At 3pm the connection was activated and these guys signed off.

In closing, my learning

  1. You can win a lost customer by been nice to them and sincerely accepting that there is an issue and taking all efforts to sort out the issue.
  2. Human to Human connection. In all this confusion, I just dealt with 3 persons with ACT (1 sales guy, 1 team leader and 1 Customer care executive) and all three knew exactly what was happening vs the seven guys at Airtel who had no clue what was happening.

For some reason, I felt that these ACT guys were genuinely concerned and took personal interest to complete the installation and set things right.

Now they have one happy customer trumpeting about their great services all over social media 🙂 unless they mess up something in the future which I hope never happens.

 

Note: Typed from phone (yah the same old iPhone). Please report any typos or errors and I will have it corrected. Thanks.

Our experience with India Builders

I will share here our experience of buying a flat/apartment with India Builders, Anna Nagar. I am working hard on this and will publish the complete post soon. Meanwhile if you are someone who is looking at buying a flat in Chennai or with India builders and would like to get some tips, feel free to write me an email at selvamraja at gmail.com

Malaysia Airline – Humiliation/Harassment & a Traumatic Experience

On August 19, 2016, I booked a return ticket from Chennai to Bali, Indonesia (with a transit in KL, Malaysia) for attending the Asian Patent Attorneys Association Annual Meeting.

On Oct 12, 2016, I completed my check-in at the Depansar Bali Airport at around 14:00 hrs and  was waiting at Gate 1 where the boarding was scheduled.  Around 15.30hrs an announcement was made that the boarding has been shifted to Gate 5. On reaching Gate 5, the ground staff informed us that due to some engine problem the departure time was changed to 16.20 hrs. I noticed the ground staff watching the plane and chatting with each other in the side corridor near the boarding gate. There was one ground staff at the gate and when enquired as to when they will announce boarding, he informed me that there was a delay. Then the display screens changed and the departure time was changed to 16.20hrs. I went back to the ground staff at the gate and he had no information as to the delay and informed me that there was some engine problem and that the engineers are evaluating the same.

After half-an-hour of waiting, the luggage was off-loaded from the plane and placed on the tarmac (a photograph of the same is attached herein as Exhibits), but the ground staff still had no idea about the issue or the period of delay. A passenger from London demanded to speak to the higher authorities and did so on the phone, but to no avail.

The departure was then rescheduled to 17:20hrs and we were assured that the ground staff in Kuala Lumpur would take care of our connecting flights. The ground staff ultimately informed us that there was an engine problem and spare parts were being awaited and the flight was rescheduled to 18.20hrs. The fatigued passengers were then provided with a can of coke/sprite, a candy bar and a snack. The flight was again rescheduled to 19.30hrs.

We boarded the flight at 19.30hrs and were informed by the pilot that the delay was due to some defect with the right engine but it had been rectified and we were only awaiting tower clearance. Meanwhile, the air conditioners and lights were dysfunctional and the crew were rushing about, and it was announced that another defect had been detected in the same engine and the pilot wanted to make sure it is safe to take off. We were at the gates at 19.50hrs. At 20.10hrs, the pilot announced that it was safe to take off. The crew informed us that many of us would be missing our connecting flights and our flights would be rebooked and we would be provided accommodation for the night at Kuala Lumpur.

The pilot then announced that there would be further delay due to air traffic congestion and finally, after receiving clearance, we took off for Kuala Lumpur and landed at 23:30hrs. By then many of us had missed our connecting flights. We were then directed to the Malaysia Airlines helpdesk. There, one of the staff took passengers travelling to India separately and informed us that those travelling to Hyderabad, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai would all be put on the flight MH0182 to Chennai the next morning (Oct 13, 2016 at 09.35hrs) and reconnected through local flights to their destinations. He requested us to give him 20 minutes so that they could arrange for the hotel rooms. In the meantime, a woman with a child who enquired about the hotel rooms was yelled at for her apparent impatience, an inadmissible behavior from such trained staff, and when I enquired about my luggage, considering they were providing accommodation, the staff stated that access to luggage will take 2 hours as they had been sent to the storage, and did not seem to think that when a passenger has not been able to board, providing his/her luggage is essential, especially if he/she is travelling “alone”. Not providing us the luggage was utterly illogical from the point of view of hygiene. When I asked her “What do I wear at the room”, and to my surprise she replied, “You are alone”. I had nothing further to respond at that point. I am sure that I do not need to explain this any further.

To the astonishment of the passengers, around 01.00 hrs on Oct 13, 2016 we were informed that the rooms inside the immigration area were full. The staff were requesting the immigration authorities to allow the passengers to stay in hotels outside the immigration area, but they did not permit the passengers to exit, as is the usual conduct of the authorities and that it was unreasonable to expect the immigration authorities to allow people to exit the immigration area without proper documents. The Malaysia Airlines staff’s logic was that they were ready to provide us accommodation outside the immigration area but we would not be allowed to cross the immigration area which was absurd.

The ground staff then began complaining about how this was always a problem with Indian and Chinese passport-holders and got offended when I told them that they should stop talking racism of such passengers. One man from the staff, without any provocation, began shouting at me, which is a disgraceful behavior on the part of the staff of such a widely acclaimed service provider and I had to ask him not to raise his voice at the passengers. Around 02.00hrs of Oct 13 both children and the elderly were exhausted and famished. The passengers demanded access to the airport lounge, for which the staff agreed to check. They then came back and informed us that pest control had been done at the lounge and we were told that we might have to move around. We agreed to the same and were taken to the lounge.

As there were no refreshments in the lounge, we were given vouchers to eat at the Noodles shop or the Burger King near the lounge and assured that we would be given more vouchers if needed (Video Conversation with the staff is attached herewith as Exhibits). But once we went to the restaurants, we were informed that vouchers could not be clubbed and we could only be provided with chicken nuggets and a coke at 13RM (equivalent to Rs.209). The ground staff was perplexed at this response but advised us to adjust and have whatever was available, another instance of the ludicrous behaviour on the part of the staff. Three vegetarian passengers had to go to sleep without any food, as no credit cards were working at Burger King even if we wanted to buy food for ourselves.

Over and above all this, the lounge staff behaved very inhospitably – they were reluctant to provide water bottles, the blankets we asked for came at 04 00 hrs and they kept cleaning the lounge with vacuum cleaners while people were trying to sleep – and we were shocked at such unprecedented behavior. At around 04 00 hrs., when breakfast services started in the lounge, the staff informed us that we must use vouchers as the food service was not for us. When we refused the vouchers, we were asked to be at the gate at 07 00 hrs, but we argued that the flight being at 09:35hrs, there was no need to arrive at the gate before 0835hrs, at which the staff on duty told us that her shift was over and she was leaving, meaning that she could not care less. We then ate some food in the lounge and went to board the flight at 0835hrs. Being trained by such a renowned Airlines, how could the staff mete out such an obnoxious treatment to passengers who were being inconvenienced not due to their own fault was shocking to us

It is pertinent to note that as per international convention; passengers possess some rights globally in case of flight cancellations and delays.

  • The regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the European Council of 11 February, 2004 establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights. Not only do the Articles 7, 8 and 9 of the regulation provide for the rights of the passengers to compensation, reimbursement and rerouting, and care, respectively, but the Article 14 also provides that the airlines has the obligation to inform the passengers of such rights. The passenger’s right to care entitles them to meals and refreshments as well as two telephone calls, telex messages, emails, etc. and hotel accommodation in case of overnight delay along with transportation from the place of accommodation to the airport. They are further entitled to compensation or reimbursement or re-routing or alternative transportation in certain cases and under certain circumstances.
  • In the international arena, EU is not the only one to provide for such passenger rights. The International Air Transport Association, 2013 also supports the view of the EU regulation regarding air passenger rights.
  • The Montreal Convention of 1999 (MC99) to which India is a signatory, is another international treaty which creates an exclusive and uniform framework of liability in the international air carriage of passengers and cargo.
  • Moreover, in the ICAO Sixth World Air Transport Conference, ICAO (a specialised organ of the UN) received support from its member states to develop high-level principles on consumer protection.
  • The Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (Aviation Consumer Protection Division) of the USA even produces a monthly Air Travel Consumer Report for ensuring compliance with such international norms.
  • The office of the Director General of Civil Aviation in India has issued Civil Aviation Requirements, wherein the Series M, Part IV, issued on 6thAugust 2010 and in force from 15 August 2010, provides for facilities that air passengers are entitled to due to denied boarding, cancellation of flights and delays in flights. In case of delays in flights, these rules provide that the passenger shall be entitled to meals and refreshments with regards to the time of delay as well as hotel accommodation.

Thus, it is evident from the legal frameworks cited that passenger rights are universally accepted concept, and every passenger of flight MH850, including myself faced the infringement of these rights due to the deficient and callous service of the Malaysia Airlines and the irresponsible, reckless behavior of the staff, without minding the mental trauma undergone by the passengers for no fault of their own. Due to the unacceptable behavior of the Airlines authorities, not only was our travelling experience spoilt, but we also had to undergo unnecessary harassment, humiliation, stress and mental trauma.

It took several days to get out of the trauma created by the airline. It also led to me cancelling my US trip which came up thereafter.

Today I managed to write to Malaysia Airline with the following demands:

  1. Provide a written apology and an undertaking to train and equip your staff to deal with unexpected situations to prevent any future passengers from facing any such harassment;
  2. Pay a sum of Rs. 50,000 towards compensation for causing harassment, humiliation and mental trauma and for infringing the prescribed international aviation right to care of passengers by impermissible behavior of your staff;
  • Pay a sum of Rs. 15,000 towards the costs of this legal notice.

While the Malaysia Airline social media team did not bother to even address one of the several tweets I sent them, let us hope that they understand the seriousness of the issue at hand and respond.

My US Visa renewal experience – Chennai Visa Application Centre

img_0943
Applicants and accompanying persons to the US Visa Centre waiting on the street blocking traffic and risking themselves from getting hit by a passing vehicle.

It is going to be 10 years since my first visit to the USA, the land of opportunities. I still remember the first trip when we took a taxi to the Best Western hotel, Chicago sometime in the evening and then I called my mom who just woke up and was making her morning coffee. It was exciting to see or feel in real that there can be day in one part of the world while the other part is sleeping.

Coming back to the renewal of my US VB1/B2 Visa, you can get all the information at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-visarenew.asp

This is what I did.

  1. Paid the visa fees using NEFT
  2. Completed DS-160 – http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-ds160info.asp
  3. I registered and created a profile at https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/?language=English&country=India to schedule a visit for today at 8.15am.

The system asks you a few questions to check if you are eligible for interview waiver and thankfully I was one of them. It would be good to renew your Visa before the expiry date. Though this is not the only criteria for interview waiver it would be helpful.

I reached the Visa Application Centre at 7.45am and while passing the building I saw a long queue in the road and I managed to find a parking spot in the main road. Walked to the gate and enquired with the security who informed me that 8am appointments are allowed inside. 8.15 would be next. I then went back to the queue and waited while autos and cars either zipped past us or cursed us for blocking the road. Not that we wanted to, but as you would understand no point explaining anything to Chennai auto annas.

The security allowed a few people and then the line stopped, I was curious and asked the gentleman in front of me what time is his appointment and he stated that his was 8.30am. I then went to the security and he allowed me to get in as I was for 8.15am.

There was a queue inside where two staff verified the documents and let us go into the main building where we were welcomed by the staff who once again verified the docs, let us pass to another counter who scanned the bar code and let us into another room – security check – switch off mobile – then to another counter who stuck another bar code on my passport and directed me to another counter where the staff gave me a token and the counter number to go.

The counters were free and the staff were professional and courteous. She advised me to read a paper which basically mentioned that by putting in the finger prints I undertake that whatever I have mentioned in my application is true and any false information would amount to perjury. Agreed.

She took a photo, scanned the prints and explained how I will collect my passport. Gave me the acknowledgement and off I go. I was out by 8.18am and on my way to office.

What could be improved.

  1. The waiting queue can be inside the building. There is lots of space. Only applicants can be allowed to enter this area. This way we avoid the risk of the applicants getting hurt/killed on the road or cause traffic jams and hardship to other road users.
  1. The mike/speaker setup in the counter is just too loud or echoing. I saw it was a very good brand (I forgot the name) but still I had to ask her to repeat the questions several times.

For the applicants and the relatives: We should understand that the most of them applying for the Visa renewal or whatever are mature adults and does not require the whole family to come. It’s not even the airport for heaven’s sake. By accompanying them you are causing them more trouble than any help. Off course this is my opinion. To one his own.

Overall the whole experience was good and very effective.

Marky locks himself in the bathroom

Just another night and as we get ready to hit the bed, Marky goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth and after few minutes Matt tries to go bully him. So Marky tries to stop Matt from entering the bathroom and puts the latch. Then he is unable to open it. I tried to break open the door but was not able to and more so because we were not able to considering that Mark is right behind the door and he might get hurt.

I tried to use the ladder and climb my way up to the exhaust window and kept talking to Mark as he has started to cry. Pranitha’s mom suggested that we call the fire rescue service. Meanwhile Matt is going door by door and informing them that Marky is locked in the bathroom 🙂 He is having his fun. Then Sasha’s dad tried to break the door and while I was hanging outside the window, I called Mark to stay far away from the door and Bingo! the door opened.

Marky was scared and sweating crazy and was happy to run into my arms. He spent the entire night sleeping on top of me 🙂 Just another day!