A footpath near Eklavya College on DP Road in Kothrud has turned into the apple of discord between local residents and some illegal scrap dealers.
Inhabitants of the adjacent Muktanand Co-op Housing Society and RK Pride Apartments blame the encroachers for various unlawful activities in the neighbourhood. When one resident mustered the courage to try and lodge a police complaint, he was allegedly threatened at gunpoint by some unidentified men. Locals say they are fed up with the ‘gundaism’ that has been going on for the last six years.
The shops set up by the scrap dealers impede easy access to the apartment complexes. Repeated complaints to respective authorities have proved of no use. “We have sent several written complaints to the ward office and anti-encroachment department of PMC. Till now PMC has taken action and cleared the footpath three times. But every time these dealers returned after a few days. They even threatened us. The latest complaint we made was last month. After a few days of the complaint an unidentified crook brandishing a revolver threatened me late at night when I was returning to home. He told me to not create any further complications,” said an inhabitant of Muktanand society, on condition of anonymity. Another resident said, “There are two scrap dealers and they have demanded Rs 7 lakh from each flat to vacate the place. Now we have permanently closed our main entrance because of this trespass.”
Locals allege that PMC’s anti-encroachment squad too return empty-handed after a scrap dealer threatened to lodge a complaint under The Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Ward office of Kothrud too has turned a deaf ear, they say. “Our apartment is located on the opposite side of this footpath. The area has become a complete mess. Late at night these people pick up fights among themselves and disturb the neighbourhood. A few days ago my wife tried to tell them to tone down their voices, but they spoke in abusive language. Now we are helpless and have decided to ignore them,” said a resident of Shantiban Housing Society.
When contacted, DS Wanjale, assistant inspector, Kothrud police station said, “We have not received any complaint from that area. We cannot take action for the encroachment. It is the responsibility of PMC. But if residents are in fear and facing problems from hooligans, they can complain to us anonymously. We will take immediate action.” Wanjale also assured that late-night policing will be increased the area.
“I have received many complaints from that area. We took action several times. But the miscreants returned after a few days. They have filed anti-atrocity complaint against PMC officials. Now we are planning to conduct a meeting with the residents regarding this issue. Otherwise, we will plant trees at that location, so the encroachers automatically have to move,” said area corporator Kishor Shinde.
Avinash Sapkal, PMC ward officer, Kothrud, said, “We have acted four times and also seized their belongings. What else can we do? We have a right to clear the area and take action against encroachment. The fine amount is also Rs 500, which is very nominal. I will take action tomorrow, but there is no guarantee that the space will clear permanently.”