This is a case, which accentuates the possible political nexus behind illegal constructions and the systematic destruction of vast swathes of natural habitat in the city. MiD DAY has in its possession copies of five sanctions for prosecution under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act and an FIR against Kartik Shetty, district vice-president of Congress (North Mumbai), for flouting the very rules he is expected to uphold. The prosecution sanctions, under section 152 of MRTP Act 1966, have been filed in the last two years — the latest being in the last week of February. They pertain to illegal land development and land filling, without requisite permissions from concerned government bodies.
Set in concrete
“It is people like Shetty who are responsible for vast acres of natural habitat being destroyed in Charkop. Construction work is still rampant in areas covered with lush mangroves. On the other hand people who are investing their life’s earnings or procuring bank loans to buy flats here could one day be rendered homeless, as their structures are likely to be declared illegal (see box),” alleged Reji Abraham, president of United Association for Social Education and Public Welfare, who has been fighting for environmental causes in Charkop for over nine years and is also a member of the high court committee for protecting mangroves in the city.
Abraham added that the need of the hour was to have laws, which protect the interests of the common man, and make builders, who book profits and vanish, accountable for reimbursement in such eventuality. Last year, Shetty claimed to be the owner of the about 2-acre plot, where the illegal dumping was happening, on the basis of an old electricity bill in his name.
The same, when given to the power company for verification, turned out to be forged (MiD DAY has a copy of the reply from the power distribution company). When contacted, Prashant Panvelkar, area tehsildar, confirmed the prosecution sanctions against Shetty and added that the same had been drafted based on complaints received from local residents, who were concerned about the vanishing natural habitat of Charkop area.
“We have already initiated demolition procedures, and have also finished processing all the paperwork. We will be despatching it to concerned authorities in a day or two to take appropriate action,” he said.
BMC assistant commissioner Sanjog Kabare too confirmed that based on the charges of MRTP Act violations against Shetty, a report would be forwarded to the local police station to initiate action. “When it comes to environmental law violations, it is the forest department, which has to file complaints. Our grievance was against his illegal encroachments and filling of debris on an open plot without government permissions,” he said.
MiD DAY had on January 16 exposed (Your dream home could be demolished) the fact that over 1,500 flat owners living in sectors 8 and 9 of Charkop in Kandivli (West) face possible eviction in spite of possessing all the legal documents and occupancy certificates for their homes. That’s because despite a 2004 Bombay High Court order that prevents construction within 50 metres of mangroves, 25 different builders cleared hundreds of acres in 2006 to construct 25 buildings.
The other side
Though Kartik Shetty was not available for comment, Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP (North Mumbai), who is also a secretary of AICC, categorically stated that if the charges are proven, the civic authorities and police must take action against the accused, irrespective of his political connections.