“I will act as per the law, while following my duty”, said E Ravindran, commissioner of the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), who remains unfazed by political opposition as he continues with the demolition drive in Kalyan. However, the drive has received support from the masses as it will de-congest and widen arterial roads in the area.
KDMC commissioner E Ravindran refused to comment on the political opposition to the drive. Pic/Sameer Markande
Ravindran claimed the road widening project was pending since 20 years. “In 1996, the proposal for road widening was approved in the Development Plan (DP). KDMC officials and shopkeepers in the area were conducting a continuous follow-up on the DP. Being a market area, the road widening will affect the business of the shopkeepers. But, in the end we received a tremendous response from them,” he said.
Call from the CM
KDMC started the road-widening project on December 23 and will carry out 27 such projects. “Almost five of the demolition projects have started,” said Ravindran. The commissioner said he received a call from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on the day of the demolition. “I received a call from the CM, who asked me for feedback and status of the demolition work. We spoke when almost all the demolition work was done and the debris was being removed. I was asked to do the work keeping in mind the concerns of the people,” he added.
Around 310 structures, including some houses, were issued a notice by the KDMC prior to the demolition. The civic body has completed almost 90 per cent of the work. Ravindran says, “The present width of the road is 35 feet, which according to the development plan will be widened to 60 feet. We have had around seven meetings with the shopkeepers. The meetings were held in October, December and January, before the demolition drive was conducted.”
“Around 90 per cent of them were happy and cooperated with us during the drive. The response was so good that around 40 per cent of them personally started the demolition of their shops and supported us with the drive. Our demolition drive took place on January 8, whereas many of them (the shopkeepers) started their own demolitions on January 2,” he said, adding that he received good support from the police as well.
‘In public interest’
KDMC sources said housing minister Prakash Mehta also held a meeting on January 7, a day before the demolition on the 500-metre stretch from Shivaji Chowk to Mahatma Phule Chowk in Kalyan (west). The meeting had Sanjay Gharat, assistant commissioner, KDMC and PK Ugle, city engineer, KDMC, in attendance.
The sources alleged that Mehta also tried to pressurise the commissioner and other local bodies to stop the drive, since his cousin owns a shop named Lokmanya Tea house on the same stretch. “I don’t want to speak about the political part, as we are doing it in the larger interest of the public,” said Ravindran.
‘What about hawkers?’
Virendra Mutha, one of the shopkeepers said almost all of them were happy with the drive, as it was for the development of the city. “We support the drive and fully cooperate with the officials during the drive. But, despite a March 2015 order from the High Court, no action has been taken against hawkers. We don’t have any dispute with the hawkers, but we are concerned about sorting out the traffic congestion,” he said.
Virendra said that around 15 per cent of his shop fell on the road and had been demolished. “The officials from KDMC have assured rehabilitation for shopkeepers who have lost almost 100 per cent of their shops. But the new space will not be in the market area and it will affect their business,” he added.
Rakesh Mutha, president of the Kalyan Vyapari Mahasangh, claimed his organisation is also in favour of the drive. “But we are very concerned about hawkers misusing the space which will be made available after the drive. The corporation should see to it that the hawkers are removed and quick action is taken against them.”
Rakesh also registered a case against certain hawkers with Mahatma Phule police station on Sunday. “On Sunday, a few vehicles were busy clearing the debris left behind after the demolition. Incidentally, few hawkers stopped the vehicles claiming their business was being disturbed. The ward officer, Arun Wankhande, took action against the hawkers, but they attacked us later.”