A deserted stretch near Alexandra Dock, on Friday afternoon. Pic/Atul Kamble
The Bombay Port Trust of MbPT is all set to start an 'open forum' every Friday, at the Port Trust building in Ballard Estate. The forum, which will be held from 3 pm to 4 pm at Port Trust chairman, Sanjay Bhatia's office, will be for the general public, so that they can ask questions about their properties on Port Trust land.
Picture of the notice at Alexandra Dock gate announcing the Friday meetings
This open forum is slated to begin next Friday, as Bhatia is out of the country and will be back in the coming week.
Port Trust secretary, RP Paibir, said, "When the chairman is away, a deputy will conduct the meetings. This is for people who cannot get an appointment to meet the chairman. We decided to keep an hour in the week so that they can come and share their grievances. In fact, they can ask anything related to the Port Trust, not just about their properties."
A Colaba resident and a very active member of the 'BPT Matters' WhatsApp group, Pervez Cooper says, "While this is a good move by the Port Trust authorities, I fail to understand the logic of pasting a notice announcing the open forum at the obscure Alexandra Docks, which is at one end of the Ballard Estate."
Cooper claims, "It was by chance that I saw the notice. A car mechanic was taking his client's vehicle out for a test drive two days ago. He saw the notice, took a picture of it and sent it to me, after which I posted it on the WhatsApp group." "If they are serious and sincere about this, it should be on the front page of prominent newspapers too. Who visits Alexandra Dock?" asked Cooper. However, Paibir claimed that the information is on the Port Trust website, and they have also created awareness, "through different avenues."
The firing line
Shridhar Shenoy, a resident of Darukhana, SoBo, is a prime Port Trust target. In fact, the 'emptying' of Darukhana has already begun with a swathe of hutments cleared out of the area and more are going to face the axe soon.
Shenoy said, "We came to know about the open house when Cooper posted this on the WhatsApp group, recently." He added, "Though this is a welcome initiative, Darukhana residents and commercial property owners have already had a couple of meetings with Bhatia. The refrain we hear is that: we cannot save Darukhana. Even politicians are saying that Colaba can be saved but not Darukhana. So, who is there to save us? Notwithstanding the open house option, the fear continues."
When the picture of the notice pasted at Alexandra Dock gate in Ballard Estate was taken, the stretch was deserted. Though it is uncharacteristic of the city on a weekday, this absence of people or vehicles is an enduring feature of the Alexandra Dock area.
Bharati N, who is also part of the Port Trust group, said, "Who goes to Alexandra Dock? Why can't this notice be put up more prominently? In fact, the Port Trust authorities have posted a slew of notices citing violations and arrears, in buildings at SoBo, including a very recent one at a building near the GPO. If the authorities can post these, why can't they paste a copy of the open forum too?"
She further said that an ideal location would be the Estate Officers Court at Vijay Deep building in Ballard Pier, as many people visit the place.
Most residents do not want this to their name but they think there is a sinister design in pasting an open house notice in a ludicrous location. "The Port Trust can then get away with saying they had posted a notice with the noblest intentions, but nobody turned up for the open house," said a resident. However, the charge has been denied by the Port Trust.
Vinod Shekhar, general secretary, Mumbai Congress, who he claims to support the tenants, said that the open house was a "farce". He further said, "It's time the government stops harassing legal tenants. Otherwise, we will have to take to the streets in a prolonged, hard battle."
What the notice says
The MbPT chairman will hold an 'Open Public Grievance Forum' without any prior appointment, every Friday between 3 pm and 4 pm, to redress the grievances of general public, apart from those serving in MbPT and retired employees.
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