The 60-feet Avenue Road that cuts across the 22-acre Brigade Millennium apartment community has become a matter of major concern for residents. Even though the road was initially supposed to be for the use of residents, it has become a fully public road now. But residents continue to pay for its maintenance through Brigade Enterprises Limited (BEL). Rs 80,000 every month is spent on it from a corpus fund of which nearly 86 % comes from the residents.
In August 2010, they decided they no longer wanted to maintain the road with their own money. They wrote to Brigade in demanding that the road should be handed over to BBMP. Brigade responded saying that it could not write to BBMP directly but the residents were free to take up the issue with the Palike. Though the residents wrote to Shivabasavaiah, BBMP Joint Commissioner (Bommanahalli), under whose jurisdiction the apartment is, on September 17, they have not received any response from him yet.
The Brigade Millennium (BM) complex comprises five residential blocks, the Avenue road, a small site for Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), in addition to Brigade’s three non-residential ventures – Brigade School, Woodrose Club and MLR Convention Centre. There is also one park and a civic amenities site that Brigade had relinquished to the BDA (Bangalore Development Authority), but continues to be maintained by Brigade on lease.
In 2004, while the apartments started to be occupied, Brigade had said that the road was ‘semi-public’ – that only the residents and visitors to Brigade’s other buildings will use it. Entry into the road was restricted by gates. In 2006, when the Tank Bund road leading to Puttenahalli was under repairs, BDA said that the road should be opened to public temporarily. “The work was supposed to take around three months, but public continued to use the roads,” says M R Jaishankar, Chairman and Managing Director of Brigade Enterprises.
Around then, local bodies started taking the view that private roads cannot be allowed in BDA-sanctioned layouts. Govindraj Setty, former Estate Manager at BM, says, “Later, when the Puttenahalli main road was being constructed, the then-BBMP Commissioner S Subramanya said that the gates of Avenue Road should be opened for public use. Brigade, along with resident associations, gave a representation to the Traffic department. They then forwarded it to the BDA. We then got a letter from the BDA saying that the road should be open to public, it has been so since then.”
In the last two years, the road has become congested and heavy vehicles including BMTC buses have been using it. Residents are irked that the road continues to be maintained by interest from their corpus fund. Moreover, residents have almost no control over the expenditure as Brigade has not yet transferred the corpus money to the residents association.
Dispute over corpus fund usage
The same corpus is used to maintain the park, Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and other common systems in the complex as well. The total expenses for all these come to around Rs 2.25 lakh every month. Though the residents had demanded that Brigade give an audited statement of these accounts to them, all they have got so far is a certificate from an auditor stating Brigade’s expenditure from 2004-05 to 2007-08, which the residents are not ready to accept at face value.
“Anyone can get an auditor’s certificate. The company has to provide independently audited statements,” says Arathi Manay Yajaman, former President of Brigade Millennium Residents Federation (BMRF). BMRF is a federation of four residential block associations in the complex.
One of the residential blocks Labarnum, which has fewer, but larger apartments, refused to join the federation saying that the contributions by blocks should be based on square foot area of apartments. But then the larger blocks demanded that if so, the voting rights should be proportionate with contribution. Laburnum did not accept this and refused to join BMRF. Now, BMRF runs with equal contributions and equal voting rights for just the four blocks.
Timeline of events
February 2004 – Apartments started to be occupied
May 2008 – BMRF (residents’ federation) was formed
November 2008 – First meeting between residents and Brigade to discuss issues relating to road, corpus fund etc
August 2009 – Second meeting, in which residents agreed to Brigade’ s demand to form BMF, a federation with representation from residential and non-residential entities.
October 2009 – Talks on formation of BMF fail
August 2010 – Residents write to Brigade saying that it should relinquish Avenue Road to BBMP
September 2010 – Brigade responds saying that residents should take up the issue with BBMP. Residents write to BBMP Joint Commissioner and fail to get any response.
This disagreement has become the road block in transferring maintenance rights to the federation. However the bigger issue is that, Brigade, in the original sale deed mentions that they will transfer the maintenance of common areas to the federation of residents’ association but now insists on including other non residential entities in the association, as well.
Of the total corpus fund of Rs 3.6 crore, the non-residential buildings had contributed Rs 0.5 crore (14.3 per cent of the total fund) and residential buildings had contributed Rs 3.1 crore (85.7 per cent). The non-residential buildngs are the club, school, convention centre, civic amenities site and the STP site, all of which are under the control within the Brigade Group. Since the non-residential buildings had also contributed to the fund, they should also have control over the funds and in the federation, Brigade says.
“The representation of an entity should not be dependent on the contribution it makes. Every entity is part of the complex and should have a vote,” says Jaishankar. Brigade demanded that a new federation named BMF (Brigade Millennium Federation) comprising 10 entities be constituted, which includes the five residential blocks, and the five non-residential areas. Brigade said that it would pay 50 per cent of the maintenance cost of the road subject to the federation’s formation. After much deliberation, the talks ended unsuccessfully in September 2009 and the arrangement continues as before.
The sale deed mentioned that each flat owner should pay 25 paise per year for maintenance of common areas, but Brigade instead collected a one-time charge of Rs 30 per square feet. While each flat owner paid Rs 30 per every square feet area of his flat, the total contribution from Brigade Hospitality Services (which owns Woodrose Club and MLR Convention Centre) and Brigade Foundation (which owns the school) were lesser as the total area of the buildings were less.
This has led to concerns regarding usage of the park as well. The park doubles up as playground for students of Brigade School. “Some 80 per cent of the wear and tear of the park must be caused by students, but the money for maintenance goes from residents’ pockets. Two borewells were also dug at the cost of Rs 3.5 lakhs in the common area recently, without consulting residents. According to our estimates, the corpus money will get eroded by Rs 70 lakh over the next five years due to escalating cost of expenditure,” says Arathi.
The residents’ federation had demanded that the commercial and residential entities should contribute to the corpus at the ratio of 70:30. Even though it sent a notice to Brigade demanding return of its share of the corpus, Brigade declined to do so stating that the decision was made as per Laburnum block association’s instructions. Laburnum was happy with the ongoing arrangement and was not keen on having the fund transferred to residents.
Road is the first concern
The federation is now trying to get BBMP to acquire the Avenue Road. When it wrote to Brigade in August 2010, demanding that the road be relinquished to BBMP, the company replied that doing so would be equal to giving up their legal right on the road and that the residents were free to pursue the matter with BBMP. It also said that the security and cleanliness of the road would be affected if BBMP takes over. This is different from the position that Brigade took in 2008, when it wrote to residents saying that it has requested the BBMP to either acquire the road or to let it remain private.
However, Jaishankar told Citizen Matters that Brigade is ready to relinquish the road and continues to make representations to BBMP for the same. “In our recent response we only intended that the residents should also contact BBMP directly instead of placing the responsibility entirely on the builder,” he says.
O P Ramaswamy, former president of the Mayflower residential block association, says, “For Brigade, maintaining the road in good condition is in its own interest since its commercial ventures are located right along the roadside. The road is in bad shape now; it has huge potholes with metal rods sticking out.” Due to residents’ protest, Brigade has stopped doing any patchwork on the road for the last six months, though it continues to pay for the street lights, sweepers, security etc.
Meanwhile, the BBMP has not looked into the matter yet even though the residents wrote to it a month back. When Citizen Matters called, Shivabasavaiah said that internal roads approved in BDA layouts are public by default, but the Avenue Road case will be looked into specifically and if it is confirmed as public, the case would be forwarded to BBMP’s Major Roads department, which will then notify it as a public road. ⊕