sunday mid-day exposes how three 300 sq ft houses have come up on the mangrove belt near Shastri Nagar-Yari Road in Andheri, and are available at throwaway prices. While locals allege the involvement of land mafia, civic officials feign ignorance. Cops promise to take action against the accused
One thing that all Mumbaiites dream of is to have a house of their own. While some of them manage to realise this dream, others end up spending most of their lives pursuing this dream. But it seems for a few, it has become a reality that can be achieved by paying as little as Rs 50,000. In the last one week, three 300 square-feet houses have come up illegally on the mangrove belt near Shastri Nagar-Yari Road in Versova. The local land mafia is allegedly selling 10x10 feet shanties for as little as Rs 50,000.
Shanty town: The mangrove belt in Versova wears a different look with these illegal constructions in the area. Pic/Nikesh Gurav
Locals allege that the land mafia cuts the mangroves late in the night after which construction material and debris are dumped in the area. The following day, houses are erected using bamboo, tin and plastic.
On Saturday, when this correspondent visited the site, he saw that bamboo and other construction material were stored in a newly built shanty. In an exclusive picture of the shanty clicked by a sunday mid-day photographer, it can be clearly seen that bamboosare stored in the room and the workers who are allegedly involved in the construction of huts and destruction of mangroves can also be found sleeping inside the shanty.
Locals live in fear
A local resident said, on condition of anonymity, “A couple of people from the Shastri Nagar slums are involved in this activity. If anyone wants the huts on rent, they have to pay anywhere between R1,500-2,000 per month to the land mafia. Moreover, they are assured electricity and water connection within a few months.” This correspondent also saw that majority of the slums have taken electric connection illegally from a single meter in the vicinity.
(Left) Workers sleep inside an illegal shanty where they have stored bamboos, (right) other shanties in the area. Pics/Nikesh Gurav
A resident of the Shastri Nagar slums, who claims to be staying in the area prior to 1995 said, on condition of anonymity, that locals have tried to oppose the construction of these new huts but the land mafia has allegedly threatened them of dire consequences if they file a complaint with the cops.
He said, “Before 1995, there were only 22 structures here. But over a period of time, the number has doubled. We have not caused any harm to the mangroves as we know that killing mangroves is a very big offence. Over a week ago, the land mafia started destroying the mangroves. Authorities aren’t taking any action against the land mafia as they are also hand in glove with them.”
Another woman staying in the area alleged that on October 28, she was even threatened by the land mafia as she opposed the construction of an illegal hut that was blocking the narrow path leading to her house. “When I saw they were planning to construct a new hut on the narrow path leading to my house, I immediately opposed. But goons of the land mafia entered my house and threatened me of dire consequences. I had even gone to the Versova police station along with my husband and two-year-old child but the police only filed a non-cognisable offence.”
Almost all officials that sunday mid-day spoke to gave a unanimous reply. Shekhar Channe, collector of Mumbai suburbs, said, “I’m not aware about the issue and will be able to comment once I get the details.” When contacted, Assistant Municipal Commissioner K- West ward Parag Masurkar said, “I have just taken charge few days ago and I’m not aware about this issue. I will look into the matter and take necessary action.”
Despite repeated attempts N Vasudevan, chief conservator of Mangrove Cell, was unavailable for comment. However, Senior Police Inspector Arundhati Rane from Versova police station said, “We will look into the matter and appropriate action will be taken against those who are involved in illegal activities and are a nuisance to the society.”