The Rukhi Bhavan Samaj Kalyan Kendra on Link Road, Kandivli, was originally built to serve the Rukhi community. Pic/Nimesh Dave
The Rukhi Bhavan Samaj Kalyan Kendra on Link Road, Kandivli, was originally built to serve the Rukhi community. Pic/Nimesh Dave

A Community centre in Kandivli, built to serve a financially disadvantaged community, has found itself in a spot of bother after an RTI query revealed that it was being misused for recreational and entertainment purposes.

Rukhi Bhavan Samaj Kalyan Kendra on Link Road, Kandivli, was started in the year 2000 to benefit members of the Rukhi community, who originally hail from Gujarat and belong to the Scheduled Caste. Most members of this community work as conservancy staff in the BMC. The centre, which was built using government funds, was intended to function as a social and educational space.

However, documents obtained under RTI have revealed that the space has now become a commercial hub with banquets and an AC hall, which are being advertised and rented at for as much as Rs 1 lakh per day.

Too expensive to afford
As per documents available, Charotar Rukhi Samaj, which comprises members of the Rukhi community, is responsible for maintaining the centre, which was built on a 94.11 sqm plot owned by Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (MHADA). Vijay Girkar, who was the then minister of state for social justice, tribal, women and child welfare, had provided funds for the same.

Speaking to mid-day, Kishore Solanki, a community member, alleged that he was quoted a sum of R1.30 lakh for hosting an engagement party of his family member, where around 300 guests were expected. "Until recently, the hall was available for social functions for a token amount of a few thousands. But, now they have rented the premises to a private caterer and decorator, defeating the very purpose for which it was built," Kishore claimed.

He then approached social activist Reji Abraham, who under RTI, managed to obtain copies of the agreement. "All the norms of the agreement clearly state that the hall cannot be used for commercial purposes. The idea behind filing the RTI was to ensure that the Rukhi community gets its due," said Abraham.

The other side
When contacted, Chandu Solanki, the general secretary of the Charotar Rukhi Samaj, denied the allegations.

Ashok Solanki, who claimed to be associated with the trust for many years, also rubbished the claims. When questioned about the advertisement banners and promotional pamphlets that were being used to attract people to rent the space, Ashok said that it was done to get business for the caterer.

"We do rent out the hall, but that is just to recover the money we spend per month on taxes and electricity. This hall was built for a community, which is challenged on both the social and economic fronts, and needs a space to hold functions," said Ashok.

Incidentally, when mid-day called up the number on the advertisement banner, the person on the other end said that the hall could be booked for four hours for Rs 75,000. The charges included a DJ, decorations and food arrangements for 100 people.

"We do not serve hard liquor, but can make arrangements in the changing room, provided you get your own booze," the person said.

Ashok Khaire, deputy commissioner BMC, said that as per his knowledge only free yoga classes were held every morning in the hall. "BMC is in possession of the hall. Permission for parties where drinks are served, is out of the question"

Girkar, who had donated a sum of R2.11 lakh from government funds, also claimed to be unaware about the violation and said he’d make enquiries regarding the same.