The sprinklers are working”.
Anywhere else, this would be reassuring to hear, the sign of a responsible realtor who hadn’t been remiss with an important detail.
Anywhere else, but in the newest flats of Aloha. “The sprinklers are all we got,” says Rajesh Savlani, standing in the drawing room of his 14th-floor apartment, delivered to him 13 years after he booked it in 2005.
Behind him, on the grey ceiling, gleams a white sprinkler at the mouth of a pallid red pipe that turns towards the dark hollow of the kitchen and reappears on another grey wall in the background that must have been planned as a bedroom.
A whiff of tobacco drifts in from time to time. In the corner stairs of the corridor outside the flat’s door, past rows of sand and cement bags bunkered against the walls and the screech of a tile-cutter, little tendrils detach from a cobweb of smoke hanging in the air and glide inwards, carried by a gentle breeze.
Will they test the sprinklers? A test of functionality in an environment of dysfunctionality? Not this time, though a smoker or two are probably always around to tempt them.
The eastern view from a bedroom balcony of Savlani’s flat is the stuff of brochure covers. Lush green hills of the Aravalis undulating behind a smattering of highrises in the middle distance, sloping towards Southern Peripheral Road that is steadily colonising the landscape.
It’s the kind of balcony, windswept and cosy, where one could lounge for hours, tea or tipple keeping company. But right now, getting there is no easy task. It’s either through a jammed door, sitting behind the metal frame of a construction platform parked by workers and a skein of ropes lying on the floor, or a bedroom window coated thick with dust that spell trouble for the nostrils.
Savlani’s flat has enough windows to make it airy, but there is little air. Daylight streams in through the windows, yet the interiors are pale. The entire flat is in a skeletal state – the walls aren’t plastered, the floor is unpaved – with only the doors, windows and sprinklers fitted.
It’s a new house but turning it into a home will take several more months and Rs 17.5 lakh.
At a time when NCR’s most wellknown developers are in court because of their inability to complete flats – Jaypee, Amrapali and Unitech being the biggest names – the fate of Tower D6 in Aloha, a housing project in Gurgaon’s Sector 57, reflects the ailment in the industry that has led to lakhs of homes across the region lying incomplete for several years.
Tower D6 is near the edge of the modest-sized Aloha compound but the short walk to it from the other towers is like going from spring to winter in less than a minute. Or from a time when its developer was flush with funds to a period of cash crisis.
D6 has the same architecture as the rest of Aloha but looks gaunt, the trees planted around it are drooping and the garden is turning brown from neglect. In a park in the greener part of Aloha, a game of badminton is on; swishing racquets make arcs in the air and pigeons flutter around nearby balconies. At D6, the ambient sounds change to the beating of hammers, the drone of a marble-polisher, rubber slippers crunching on bare floors.
Amid this comes the lunchtime yelp of a dog from one of the eight houses where families have already moved in — they too received bare-shell flats and completed these by themselves because they had no other choice, explains a resident.
Savlani says he had booked the flat as an investment that would help him with his two sons’ education. Both were in their teens then – the older boy is now 27, an MBA graduate, the younger
(22) is on the verge of completing his studies. Savlani, a Delhi-based businessman who runs his own company, must now actually find another Rs 18 lakh (besides nearly Rs 50 lakh that he paid for the house) to complete the flat. It’s become a burden.
D6 has 60 flats. Some have accepted possession in a bare-shell state even without occupancy papers and decided to complete the flats on their own, driven to desperation by years of paying EMI and rent.
Kanika Abbot, another flat owner in D6, says, “We have got our flat in a raw state. There was no paint and interior work, and the kitchen and bathroom were incomplete.” She completed her flat, but says living there is not easy because there is construction work all around. It’s also a security concern.
Sanjay Srivastava has a similar story to tell. “I was forced to take possession of this incomplete flat as I was paying Rs 35,000 for a rented house in Sector 56 as well as EMI,” he says, adding residents had been meeting the developer regularly for occupation certificates and completion of community facilities.
Aloha, a 5-acre residential project by AEZ Infratech, was launched in 2005 and possession was promised in 2008. The project has around 200 residential units across five towers. The construction of the club and swimming pool is still incomplete. The developer did not comment despite TOI reaching out to it several times.
In 2015, as funds dried up, the developer joined hands with homebuyers and collected Rs 5 lakh from each buyer, signed an agreement to put in an equal share, and start construction. But before work could be completed, the joint account was attached on the basis of a court order in November 2016 in response to a petition filed by a creditor of the developer for nonpayment of dues. The account had Rs 80 lakh.
Sanjay Gaba, an advocate and flat owner in Aloha, says he has been waiting for his flat for 12 years. “The developer has given illegal possession to some residents without obtaining the mandatory occupation certificate.” Gaba has filed a complaint with the economic offences wing of police but there has been little followup action.
Tower D6 of Aloha