KOCHI: A retired Army officer, who bought an apartment in one of the three ‘Chanderkunj’ towers constructed by the Army Welfare Housing Organisation (AWHO) on Silver Sand Island, Vyttila, now fears for his life. Chunks of concrete blocks falling from the roof, pillars and beams have started to expose the corroded steel bars of his residence.
Colonel Ciby George, 55, a civil engineer who served in the engineering division of the Army for over 30 years, is now fighting a legal battle against AWHO officials for the poor quality of construction and the lack of necessary approvals, including coastal regulation zone (CRZ) clearance.
Though Army headquarters had earlier launched a court of inquiry (CoI) into the alleged irregularities in the project in 2013 when A K Antony was defence minister, the colonel has now approached the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court and the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum in Ernakulam with a detailed statement against the AWHO.
Kochi city police have now registered a case against top AWHO officials on the court’s directive. They have also launched a detailed probe based on the statement submitted by the colonel. The case was registered under IPC sections 420 and 406 (cheating and criminal breach of trust) against Manoj Mukund Naravane, 62, patron of AWHO, New Delhi; Vikal Sahni, 60, managing director of AWHO; and, Arun Sekhar, 45, project director of AWHO.
“Around 265 families live in the three blocks constructed in violation of CRZ norms and without following quality guidelines. We live in constant fear as the beams and pillars have started to wither away because of the poor quality of construction. The project was completed and handed over to residents in 2018 but already huge cracks have developed on the beams and pillars” Colonel Ciby told TNIE.
“I paid Rs 73.45 lakh for the flat. It was after several extensions in work that I was finally handed over the flat in May 2018. We have not been provided with the CRZ clearance certificate so far. Following repeated demands a technical evaluation on the strength of the building was done twice,” he said.
“While the first evaluation report by Bureau Veritas was manipulated by AWHO officials, a second test was conducted by Bureau Veritas following complaints lodged by owners before NABL and other agencies," he said. It was based on the second report that National Institute of Technology (NIT) Rourkela, NIT Calicut and Government Engineering College (GEC) Thiruvananthapuram conducted an evaluation and found serious faults in the design and construction, he added.
The entire project is mired in irregularities and only an investigation by a central agency like the CBI would bring out the truth. “The AWHO wasn’t even ready to share the report prepared by the GEC. I managed to get a copy of the report after applying for the same under RTI (RTI) Act,” the Colonel added.