Day after Aaditya Thackeray inaugurates gyms, BMC tears down one

Calling it illegal, the ward officer of C ward got the facility pulled down a day after Shiv Sena youth president Aaditya Thackeray inaugurated it in a common function; Sena leaders say they have the necessary permissions

Barely a day after the Shiv Sena inaugurated two open-air gyms on Marine Drive, the BMC’s local ward office pulled down one of them stating it was illegal. This has caused much embarrassment for the Shiv Sena, the ruling party in the BMC, since Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray was present for the common inauguration function of both the gyms and has endorsed both equally.

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BMC workers pulling down the other open-air gym opposite Hindu Gymkhana, in C ward. Pic/Tushar Satam
BMC workers pulling down the other open-air gym opposite Hindu Gymkhana, in C ward. Pic/Tushar Satam

On Wednesday, two open-air gyms owned by Dino Morea were inaugurated on Marine Drive one opposite Kapoor mansion, which falls in the A ward, and the other opposite Hindu Gymkhana, which falls in the C ward. Both are located on the footpath and a common inauguration was done for both the gyms at the hands of Thackeray and actress Jacqueline Fernandes.

Aaditya Thackeray along with Jacqueline Fernandes and Dino Morea at the inauguration of the open-air gym opposite Kapoor mansion on Marine Drive. Pic/PTI
Aaditya Thackeray along with Jacqueline Fernandes and Dino Morea at the inauguration of the open-air gym opposite Kapoor mansion on Marine Drive. Pic/PTI

Although Thackeray was present for the inauguration of the A ward facility, he has lent support to both the gyms strongly. The open-air gyms like their counterparts in Shivaji Park, Worli, Bandstand, etc — are open to all and have different kind of fitness equipment.

‘Illegal’
The C ward office has objected to the gym, stating that it is illegal and, hence, cannot be permitted on Marine Drive since it falls under the Coastal Regulatory Zone and is also a heritage structure. On Thursday morning, the equipment was dismantled and taken away in a truck, barely 24 hours after its inauguration.

“I was not consulted for starting the gym. I was unaware of the inauguration, and only noticed the gym on Thursday morning. As per the rules, they should have approached the ward office, after which we would have approached the higher authorities.

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They have permission for setting up such equipment in A ward, and not in my ward,” said Sangeeta Hasnale, assistant commissioner (ward officer), C ward. Hasnale clearly stated that this equipment on Marine Drive neither has permission from the ward office, nor any higher authority.

However, after the removal drive, the equipment was restored within hours. When asked why, Hasnale said, “I was sent a letter stating that similar equipment has been given permission in A ward. So, I allowed the equipment to be reinstalled on the condition that the necessary permissions should be acquired from all necessary authorities within a week.”

Countering her claims, Sena leader and standing committee chairman Yashodhar Phanse said, “We have all the necessary permissions for a period of three months. According to the letter we have, we can put up gym equipment on any two spots on Marine Drive.

Therefore, there is no question of removing the equipment or taking additional permission. After three months, we will decide on an extension based on people’s response,” he said. Countering this, Hasnale said, “They have permission for two spots only in A ward i.e. opposite Al-Sabah court and opposite a pizzeria. Not in C ward.”

Phanse also said the ward officer’s actions must be probed, following which Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta has set up an inquiry into the matter under Additional Municipal Commissioner Pallavi Darade.

A senior Sena leader told mid-day, “There were two gyms that were set up yesterday. While the one inaugurated by Aaditya Thackeray was intact, the other one (opposite Hindu Gymkhana) was dismantled by the BMC.

After this, the commissioner’s office called the ward officer asking for an explanation why the action was taken despite all permissions from BMC. The BMC will now put up the gym as it was, on its expense.”

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