10 years after they came up, BMC tears down illegal huts

The civic body has finally woken up to illegal encroachment on its own land. The plot in question, measuring 26,000 sq m, is located right behind Infiniti Mall 2 in Malad (W).

Homeless: A child walks away with his belongings as civic officials demolish the illegal shanties on the recreational ground behind Infiniti Mall 2 in Malad (W). Pics/Nimesh Dave

MiD DAY had reported on how for 10 years, the BrihanmumbaiMunicipal Corporation had ignored encroachment by construction workers (‘This should have been a recreational ground’, October 16). About 500 huts had cropped all over the unguarded piece of land. Finally, after 10 years of inaction, and several complaints by local corporator Cyril D’souza, the civic authorities decided to act on the issue.

The land reserved as a recreational ground (RG) is under the gardens department of the BMC. It had allegedly been occupied by workers of an adjacent construction site since 2002. “Taking a serious note of the article published in MiD DAY on October 16, we have demolished the hutments that was given to M/s Ferrani Hotels Pvt Ltd to develop the municipal recreational ground,” said Devendra Kumar Jain, P North ward officer.

The demolition was to begin at 10.30 am. However, it was delayed by four hours as the workers claimed that their boss hadn’t informed them about the demolition. BMC officers along with their staff members were at the site. Senior police inspector of Bangur Nagar police station and his subordinates were present at the spot to maintain law and order.

The demolition took time, as the labourers hadn’t vacated the plot, claiming that they had no clue about the notice sent to the builder. Initially the police faced problems since the workers did not allow the police to enter the ground. Women had blocked the entrance to the plot. To tackle the situation, a van full of women constables had to be brought in.

The BMC gave a chance to the builder to prove the allegation that he had not received any notice from the officials. However, after four hours of delay, the plot was vacated around 2 pm.

Families were uprooted and lives were affected. “My eldest son has to appear for his 12th board exams. Also my children’s school reopens tomorrow. I have no clue where we will stay now. We have been residing here for 11 years and cannot afford to stay far away from Malad, as all five of my children study nearby,” said Anwara Shaikh, one of the workers residing on the plot.

‘Punish the builder’
While people were glad that the hutments were gone, they also called for the builder to be punished. Cyril D’souza, corporator, P-North ward, told this newspaper, “I am thankful to the authorities concerned for taking action against the shanties. But strict action should be taken against the builder.”  Ramdas Bhaisare, Mumbai chief of Aawaz Samajik Sanstha, a local broad-based NGO to fight against injustice, said, “The MRTP Act should be imposed on the builder so that no other person dares to touch BMC property which is reserved for the people.”

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