It seems residents of Ganpat Patil Nagar are made of different stuff. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has demolished the slums, situated on New Link Road at Dahisar (West), 110 times but the shanties just keep coming back. The colony has the distinction of being the only centurion when it comes to demolition.
There are around 8,000 shanties that came up in 1997 on a marshy land that is abundant with mangroves. The plot, which measures about 25-30 acres, falls under No Development Zone (NDZ) and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). According to the BMC, no construction is allowed on this land, as it’s a part of CRZ-1 category.
In the past 16 years, on an average the BMC has taken action against the slum dwellers eight times a year. Procedure dictates that the BMC ward office has to plan and schedule a day for the demolition. Then, the local police have to be informed.
If a sanction is received from the police to provide officers on duty, the ward office has to arrange for demolition equipment, staff, labourers and papers that prove that the structures are illegal. Only then will the action be taken. “The expenses, however, depend upon the quantum of the action,” said an official.
Santosh Dhonde, assistant municipal commissioner, R/North ward, said, “In 1995, only 700 names figured in the voters’ list. This means about 150-200 hutments are tolerable. The rest are illegal.” The demolition squad last visited Ganpat Patil Nagar in May this year, during which it demolished about 1,000 houses. No action has been taken since then.
The area falls under the jurisdiction of the MHB police station in Borivli (West). Local Shiv Sena corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar vented his ire at the BMC, “It is nothing but wastage of public money and man-hours. If the BMC takes action, it should be effective. There should be no need of repeating it so many times.”
He added that the civic body had no control over the illegal shanties in the area. “The municipal commissioner should be held responsible for the failed action,” he said. A citizen’s forum too has been trying to have the illegal residents removed. New Link Road Residents Forum has been campaigning against the shanties since 2008, in order to save the mangroves that surround the hutments.
Harishchandra Pandey, a member of the forum, said, “We have been complaining for quite a long time, but to no avail. Even after action is taken, the slums come up again. They are harmful for the environment, especially the mangroves which are already diminishing from the city.”
According to local residents, the slum had been completely done away with in the past. Yet, today, one can see the vast sea of tin-shed roofs stretching out towards the mangroves and meeting the backwaters. Sitaram Kunte, municipal commissioner, confirmed that officials had paid a visit to the slums 110 times and told MiD DAY, “We are taking action periodically and will continue to do so.”