Cameraperson: Abhishek RanjanVideo Editor: Varun SharmaIn an exclusive interview to The Quint, a local builder who has invested in two real estate projects in Greater Noida’s Shahberi, has revealed that bribes were paid to the police and GNIDA officials even before the construction began in 2017.This builder, who happens to be a former banker, chose to speak to The Quint only on condition of anonymity as he ‘might be targeted for coming in front of the camera.’Ramesh (name changed) also claimed that ‘rates were fixed on per square yard basis’ and almost all the builders who built housing complexes in Shahberi paid bribes depending on the total area of their property.“For larger projects, money was flowing directly to the GNIDA officials. There were 15-20 such projects. Authority officials were regularly visiting and having tea/coffee with us.”Ramesh (name changed), Local Shahberi Builder‘All Builders Paid Bribes’Ramesh had bought land in Shahberi in June 2017. A month later, he visited the office of the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA) seeking approval for maps drawn out by his architect.The GNIDA officials refused to admit his application saying that since Shahberi is a village area, such land doesn’t come under their purview.But the same officials advised Ramesh to begin construction anyway thus, making it clear that they were not averse to ‘illegal’ construction activity in Shahberi.“They said, ‘We do not accept maps for any village.’ There was a desk officer belonging to the housing department. He refused to accept the application. But he gave this advice, ‘You can get it constructed on your own’”.Ramesh (name changed), Local Shahberi BuilderRamesh claims that rates were fixed and it was the constable from the local chowki who would initiate talks regarding the transaction.“For a plot of 100 sq yard, I had to pay Rs 50,000. Later on, they had changed the rates to Rs 1 lakh per 100 sq yard... 100 percent builders had to pay bribes to the police. All this was in cash.”Ramesh (name changed), Local Shahberi BuilderWhy Are Flats in Shahberi Under the Scanner?Shahberi was suddenly in news when two buildings had collapsed in July 2018, killing nine people. The incident led to GNIDA announcing that more than 300 buildings in Shahberi were illegal as the maps were not approved by due process.However, locals of Shahberi, mostly middle-class families who have invested their hard-earned money, claim that they were kept in the dark all this while.Contradicting claims by the residents who have been protesting against GNIDA since July, Ramesh told The Quint that the buyers were always aware about the ‘illegality’:“Probably, it was illegal but buyers were clearly aware that maps have not been sanctioned.”Ramesh (name changed), Local Shahberi BuilderWhat is the Way Forward for Families in Shahberi?Even as several residents of Shahberi have approached the court seeking a restraint order against demolition by the GNIDA, as a builder, Ramesh still feels that there is a way forward:“As a solution, take development charges from builders but give basic amenities to people there. You cannot take out 10,000 families.”Ramesh (name changed), Local Shahberi BuilderThere are no well-defined rules for construction activity by real estate agents in village areas and it’s this loophole that the babus and police have exploited to their advantage in Shahberi.The Quint has sent a questionnaire to the UP police as well as GNIDA regarding allegations of corruption that paved way for construction in Shahberi. We will update the story as and when there is any response.‘Give Us Our Homes or Kill Us’: Shahberi Locals Protest Demolition We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.