MUMBAI: Jaya P Dhingra sits atop a heap of iron framework on the terrace of her building and points to a deep hole drilled into her kitchen ceiling. "The monsoon is going to be terrible for us," she says, "but at least they didn't manage to drill any more holes into our house."

The 45-year-old resident used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to stop a hoarding firm from erecting a scaffolding that had, in the construction process, damaged the terrace and frontage of the building. After Dhingra took recourse to the RTI to take up the issue with the BMC, the city's civic body which had approved the contract with JMD Advertisers, revoked the deal and ordered the company to repair the damage.

The victory did not come easy. Last November, the BMC gave permission to JMD to put up an illuminated hoarding at Sadhana Niwas Housing Society in Mahim. The 45-year-old housing society had passed a resolution at its annual general body meeting to sell the frontal space for commercial advertisements.

"But they did this without my consent," said Dhingra, who lives on the top floor and owns part of the terrace where the iron framework of the billboard was to be erected.

Work was under way when Dhingra returned from a three-month trip abroad. "We could not sleep because of the constant hammering. My daughter was in the middle of her exams and my husband had suffered a paralytic stroke, but they refused to stop work," she said.

The firm even drilled a hole into the roof which went right through her kitchen ceiling. "I was standing in my kitchen when concrete began to fall on the utensils. I thought the whole roof was going to collapse," she says.
In March she filed two complaints—with the Mahim police and the BMC—demanding that work be stopped.

A BMC official visited Dhingra's house and saw the damage but no action was taken and the hammering continued. It was on the advice of her friend, Sunita Sunil Godbole, that she turned to the RTI and asked the BMC for the general hoarding rules and the file on the agreement between her society and JMD.

"I also asked why the agreement was not revoked even after the BMC official saw the damage done to the terrace and kitchen," she said.

Finally, on May 19, the BMC provided her with the 50-page agreement and sent her a copy of the order which stated that "the permission granted has been revoked and JMD Advertisers has been directed to reinstate the original position under the supervision of the structural engineer."

RTI switches off billboard-Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India