– Viraf D. Mehta (Trustee, BPP)
Dear Community Members,
Ever since this board came into office in October 2015, our prime goal was to improve/improvise the then prevalent Merit Rating Scheme through which we would allot flats to the needy of our community.
However, since coming into office, we have more or less abandoned the previous merit rating system (without bringing in a new one or improving the present one) that was in use for the allotment of flats at the BPP. Some of my colleagueTrustees felt that the previous merit rating system was faulty, despite it being used for over 30 years since its formulation by Senior Counsel Edul Bharucha sometime in the 1980s, and we should modify or alter it based on present needs. It was even discussed to either revamp or replace the current merit rating system with a new one, but despite several discussions on it, it hasn’t happened till date.
So to take things forward, the Board of Trustees decided that priority for allotment of flats would be given in the following manner. First Priority would be given to the Homeless. This category would also include those families with no home of their own. Second Priority would be given to Married Couples. Third onwards would be the other remaining categories. Sadly this has not been followed in most cases.
In 2015, this Board had inherited about 120 vacant flats because of the Charity Commissioner finally lifting the stay order of November 2013 which was imposed on the previous Board of Trustees, which lasted over two years. The waiting list for married couples at that time was about 70. Ideally one would have thought that this would have been enough to house all those applicants on the marriage list after housing the homeless. Unfortunately, even with substantial allotments today our pending list of marriage couples has risen to over 80, of course with new additions being added since October 2015.
The reason our marriage list hasn’t significantly reduced is because of all the allotments this Board has done till date, only one third has been to married couples. The other two thirds have been given to primarily out of turn ‘walk-ins’. Many of the walk-in applicants complain mostly of congestion, medical needs, travel distance, the fact that their buildings are going in for redevelopment with Developers paying huge transit rent requiring transit accommodations and so on.
While this Board has followed at least some semblance of the ranking system for married couples from the previous merit rating scheme, in all other categories it has abandoned the merit rating system completely and allotments have been on an ad-hoc basis to those who come unannounced to a board meeting, some after discussing their case with a ‘particular Trustee’ and display emotional sentiments of hardship.
The thought process that was being used to justify these mostly out of turn allotments was that if a person is genuinely in need of a house, he would come to meet the Trustees of the BPP to push his case. If he/she didn’t constantly follow up on his application, then that would mean that they are not in urgent need of a house and are willing to wait. By this rationale it would mean that even though you are very high on the waiting list, if you do not come to the BPP time and again to raise your issues with the Trustees, the BPP would forget about your application.
I admit that I too have been a party to this practice and have signed off on most of these sort of out-of-turn allotments. Many of these allotments have indeed been deserving, and when personally presented in front of you, one does get swayed by emotions and wants to help such applicants.
However, in the recent past, I have begun to realise that this system is being misused and abused by some. Therefore, I have started to dissent on such unjustifiable allotments. Favouritism has brazenly crept in and rampant misuse of power is on full display. If required I can list these specific cases as well. Some of my colleague/s are meeting applicants directly on their own either on a weekday afternoon or late evenings at the BPP and, in my opinion, are coaching them on what to say when they come to meet the entire Board of Trustees at our weekly Board meetings.
This was so rampant that one of our own colleague trustees, being disgusted with this practise wrote that he would not attend any further board meetings as they were all a ‘sham’. I have consciously chosen to keep the identity private, but reproduce below the email written on the 17th February, 2018 accusing his colleagues of misuse of their powers.
“I will not be attending the meeting.
These meetings are a total waste of time and energy. We take one step forward and take three steps backward.
Arrogance and Arbitrary decisions have become a norm.
There is neither transparency nor accountability in our style of functioning.
Individual trustees are holding private “Durbars” on their own at the BPP and outside BPP on odd days without colleagues knowing about it or what happens at these private “durbars”.
I am sorry, but, seeing what I am seeing and hearing what I am hearing, I do not wish to waste my time at these farce Board Meetings.
The above email highlights the frustration some of us Trustees feel with regard to the conduct of our co-Trustees as far as allotments of free houses is concerned, which flats are allotted only to their favoured applicants without application of any Merit Rating Norms to them.
If you have applied to the BPP in the past for a house, and not followed up on your application recently, in the hope that you will get a call from the BPP when your turn comes, I regret to inform you that you will never get this call since as on date there is no Merit Rating Scheme.
At a recent meeting, Mr. Nusli Wadia was highly disappointed with the Trustees and the administration for using this “out of sight out of mind approach” on our beneficiaries. The poor and needy, especially those whose turn has come a long time ago according to the merit rating system, should not suffer and be deprived of a house just because they trusted the system in place for over 30 years and waited to be called or are unknown personally to any Trustee. Many of our Applicants are proud individuals who would have applied out of sheer necessity of circumstances and hence it may not be in their gut to visit the Trustees of the BPP to repeatedly plead for their case to be passed through.
Mr. Wadia has called upon our administration to forward the waiting list applicants as per Merit Rating Scheme in all categories to ensure that at least Wadia Baugs flats are allotted only to those on waiting list as per merit rating scheme and there are NO out of turn allotments to preferred applicants.
I would like to thank Mr. Wadia because it is due to his insistence, that this Board is now compelled to reinvestigate each application and compile a fresh new list of deserving applications and allot homes on merit, AND not on ad-hoc basis to those who keep on coming week after week to process their case, many of which have been manipulated.
I am also going to make an effort to stop the ill practice of individuals who come and meet with Trustees independently and individually at the BPP or outside and I hope to ensure that they come to meet the Board of Trustees directly instead. All allotments should be based on merit, no matter the circumstance or relation of the applicant.
Hence I request all applicants of the BPP Merit Rating Scheme Waiting List to please come and follow up on your cases and meet the Trustees at our Board meetings to ensure that your application is current and your case is known to us, or else you will be waiting forever, or at least till the end of our term as Trustees. The present circumstances have constrained me to publish this article. It is in the interest of the beneficiaries that I believe this information ought to come to light. The community and the applicants who have been waiting for decades should not be made to endlessly further wait for an allotment.
I am aware this letter may ruffle quite a few feathers at the BPP. But I thought long and hard before publishing this matter of fact and I strongly feel that it is about time that the community was made aware of the present practices of the present Board, which unfortunately are being misused as mentioned above.
I have tried to rationalize with my colleagues on numerous occasions with regard to the above practise. However, unfortunately, I find myself in the minority on most issues at the BPP and this is one more such issue. The majority have over-ruled my concerns in this regard, and the BPP functions by the strength of its majority.
It is time for the community to be more vigilant. And it is time for the Trustees to be more transparent and keep you more informed, which I intend to regularly do from here on.
Viraf D. Mehta