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Mumbai: Alert locals thwart bid to grab 4,000-sq m open space

Land sharks were erecting barricades around one of the plots in Kalina; residents alerted the authorities and encroachments were pulled down in 24 hrs

Vigilant residents and civic authorities nipped in the bud land sharks’ bid to gobble up five open plots, measuring 4,000 sq m, at a prime location in Kalina in less than 24 hours of encroachments being raised on it.

On June 15, some workers began fencing one of the plots with steel sheets (right) the next day, civic authorities razed them
On June 15, some workers began fencing one of the plots with steel sheets (right) the next day, civic authorities razed them

On June 15, residents of Sundar Nagar, Kalina, Santacruz East, noticed some workers fencing one of the plots, reserved for a playground and a school for special children, with steel roofing sheets on steel angle frames. Suspecting that land sharks and unscrupulous builders had honed in on the open space, members of an advanced locality management (ALM) body — Voice of Kalina — made enquires with the workers. “But they didn’t get any satisfactory answer from them. This is when we decided to approach civic authorities to put an end to the encroachment,” said Clarence Pinto, a member of the ALM.

Advocate Charles Dsa, another resident and member of the ALM, took the initiative to approach the MHADA executive engineer, the BMC and the local MLA with a complaint letter.

Prompt action
Assistant Municipal Commissioner Prashant Gaikwad of H/East ward said the authorities cracked down on the illegal barricades immediately. “The men on the site claimed that they were owners of the plot, a lie which was nailed by MHADA officials. On Thursday evening, we sought the help of the local police and demolished the barricades within hours.”

He suspected that some anti-social elements, who even threatened the civic officials who questioned the workers at the site, were behind the encroachments. Dsa, on the other hand, was certain that the “land mafia” and unscrupulous builders were hand in glove.

“The plots have been lying vacant since the 1970s and are an open invitation to encroachers. Similar tactics [at grabbing the land] have been tried in the past on other reserved plots in Kalina. The bosses of this syndicate should be identified and booked for their offences,” said Dsa. He suggested that the open spaces be converted into a green lung, a playground and a jogging track to stymie future attempts at encroachments.

Who owns the plots?
Bhushan Desai, executive engineer, MHADA, said the ownership of the plots is split between the housing body and the BMC. “We have secured the plot. The encroachers, however, vanished, leaving the barricades behind when we went to demolish them.”

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