Mumbai: Marine Drive residents raise a stink over motormen's new restroom

Locals, who have opposed the project for years, say that the construction of this two-storeyed facility for motormen at Churchgate violates several BMC norms

Members of the Marine Drive Residents’ Association (MDRA) are up in arms over the construction of a two-storeyed restroom for motormen at D Road, Churchgate. According to them, the Railways are flouting all norms set by the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) as preconditions, when the civic body gave its letter of approval for the building.

The restroom being constructed at D Road, Churchgate. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The restroom being constructed at D Road, Churchgate. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Besides, residents have in their possession a 2010 statement from the fire brigade stating that the Railways does not have an NOC from the fire brigade, and the structure could therefore be a fire hazard.

The operational structure will be an extension of the existing Officers’ Rest House behind Churchgate station. The ground-plus-two-storeyed structure will serve as an additional restroom for motormen during their shifts.

Troubled past
But its construction has been mired in controversy for decades. In a letter dated July 25, 1997, a resident of D Road had written to the then municipal commissioner, claiming that the construction of this restroom was causing nuisance to residents, as the structure was too close to his building Tulsi Niwas, and was blocking air and light.

Soon after, the ‘A’ ward office initiated action against the construction and issued a stop-work notice, calling the construction “unauthorised vertical extension to garages after casting of RCC slab”. Work resumed several times after that, and citizens would object and the BMC would issue a stop-work notice.

In fact, in 2010, the BMC even wrote to the Marine Drive police to “remove persons involved in construction of unauthorised work of building” on the said road. MDRA has even filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the said structure, which is in the hearing stage.

Citizen speak
“Our only concern is that the structure should be built according to the MMC (Mumbai Municipal Corporation) Act. We have a letter where the BMC has asked the Railways to comply with certain conditions. When we filed an RTI with the BMC, it replied saying that ‘railway authority has not submitted any compliance till date’,” said Hitesh Shah, member, MDRA.

Shah also holds a 2010 letter from the fire brigade stating that no NOC has been sought from them for the concerned building, despite them requiring so. He is now planning to file another RTI to ascertain if any permission was sought in 2015.

The other side
When asked how the construction was given permission, Haresh Sawant of the BMC’s Building Proposal department (special cell) said, “We have given them the letter of approval as per rules. Now it is up to them to comply with our norms and the fire brigade’s norms. If they don’t, we can withhold their completion certificate so that they won’t be able to use the structure.”

But there is no clarity on why the BMC keeps giving permission to construct and then revoking it after complaints. Sharat Chandrayan, PRO of Western Railway, also refuted any non-compliance. “The restroom is essential for motormen since Churchgate is a very important station. Railways work for the common good. We have all the approvals in place.”

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