Battle takes on political hue

Congress jumps in as saviour for beleaguered tenants

Colaba's Radio Club, saw approximately 100 people gathered in the Presidency Lounge last evening to debate their options about an agitation against the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT). There is widespread trepidation and anger, as the MbPT has slapped notices against a slew of SoBo properties, seeking to evict them for being on Port Trust land.

Viren Assar (second from right) and Vinod Shekhar (third from right) speak about the need for MbPT tenants to agitate at a meeting held at the Radio Club. Pics/Shadab Khan
Viren Assar (second from right) and Vinod Shekhar (third from right) speak about the need for MbPT tenants to agitate at a meeting held at the Radio Club. Pics/Shadab Khan

The issue has also acquired a strong political hue, with the Mumbai Congress announcing they will lead an agitation soon against Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) “oppression”. Radio Club had tenants, lessees and stakeholders of the Port Trust, who were either served eviction or termination notices, or, were fearful of eviction. The meeting was chaired by Vinod Shekhar, former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA). Shekhar began, “The Congress is solidly behind organizations and individuals fighting against MbPT oppression. We will win the battle as well as the war on the legal aspect as we have advocate Viren Assar, with us. It is now time to take the battle to the streets literally,” he said on a rousing note.

Mumbai Port Trust stakeholders at the Radio Club listen as Mumbai Congress leaders address them
Mumbai Port Trust stakeholders at the Radio Club listen as Mumbai Congress leaders address them

He claimed it was time to agitate to make their voices heard. He added, “”We need to storm the government. The new government at the centre and state has taken action which is different from ours, and the difference can be seen. Our government was pro-tenant, now the reverse is happening,” he added.

Adv. Assar, who took the mike next, spoke from a legal perspective. He said, “I do not want to bore people, but it is time for action. The 2004 Supreme Court judgment and 2006 clarification lead to writ petitions being filed in the Bombay High Court. So far 40 have been filed and 35 are admitted. Without the High Court judgment MbPT can go nowhere. Without getting political, the ministry of ports in 2010, by their land policy has made it impossible for anyone to survive as a lessee as per policy. The penalty is at thrice the market rate. This draconian policy has to be read with the SC judgment. It is a colossal mess."

Pradeep Sulekar, a dealer at Darukhana who has commercial premises on MbPT land said, "The Congress was ruling when the Ministry of Ports Law was made. If the party wanted they could have addressed the issue but that was not done. Why is all this gaining momentum now?"

Bhupendra Anand, who has a company on MBPT land, suggested that even employees working in companies on port lands should join the agitation to increase numbers, a suggestion that drew widespread applause. Pervez Cooper, Colaba resident, who saw his commercial premises closed down and taken over by MbPT, at Nazir building in Ballard Estate said, "The Congress has good intentions. But I wonder if I will get my premises back. Right now, I will go to whoever is ready to help. We are very helpless."

Gautam Parekh, resident Reay Road said, "By evicting us, you are going against Make in India. We are making Mumbai and India. Why is single window clearance given to foreign investors? We are here working for our county and doing business, yet, we are being ignored, blatantly disregarded.” Shekhar said, “Between June 15-22, there will be an agitation lead by the Congress opposite the MbPT headquarters. Everyone should come, we should have large numbers. Even sympathisers are welcome. Govts are pressurised when they see large numbers. There is no political agenda. We want the best for the people," he finished.

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