Unauthorised construction is not a novel phenomenon in the city. However, this time it is unusual since the illegal structure in question - which came up near the Eastern Express Highway without permission of the local Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) ward around four months ago - has a signboard that claims it has been built with the government funds of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Prakash Mehta.
The permanent structure, called Saibhakt Nivara, spans over 2,000 sq ft and has been built for Sai Baba devotees on pilgrimage near Ghatkopar bus depot on Andheri-Ghatkopar Link Road. Although, assistant municipal commissioner (N-Ward) Vijay Kamble claimed ignorance regarding authorisation for the structure, an RTI appeal filed by activist Shailesh Shetty revealed that consent has not been given by BMC.
“Permission not yet granted for the construction of Sai Nivara proposed at the junction of Andheri-Ghatkopar Link Road and Eastern Express Highway,” stated the RTI reply. When Kamble was told this by MiD DAY, he said, “I have to check whether we have given permission or not. But if MLA fund has been used for construction of the structure, then it must be an approved project, as it’s a government venture and benefits the people.”
“All departments are hand in glove and are not taking any responsibility for the illegal building. If there is no BMC permission, then the structure should be demolished,” opined Shetty. Anand Rayte, chief officer of slum improvement board (MHADA), said he was not aware of the issue. “I will look into the matter and let you know on Monday,” he told this reporter. MLA Prakash Mehta was in a meeting and was unavailable for comment.