Mumbai: Rahul Gandhi & Co to get front row seats to Deonar mess

Congress vice-president to visit the dumpyard today; cops say prohibitory orders not applicable to him; detractors say the garbage crisis will be the party’s poll plank

The promise of declaring the Deonar dumping ground a prohibitory area was full of hot air. Twenty-two days since Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Ajoy Mehta revealed this plan, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, with his coterie in tow, will get a free pass to enter the premises on Tuesday.

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A rough sign at the entrance of the dump prohibiting entry
A rough sign at the entrance of the dump prohibiting entry

The Congress leader will be in the city to visit the dumpyard — which detractors say will be the party’s poll plank during the civic body election barely a year away — and meet agitating jewellers who have been on strike over the 1% excise duty announced in the Union Budget.

The dumpyard has seen a series of fire outbreaks since January. File pic/PTI
The dumpyard has seen a series of fire outbreaks since January. File pic/PTI

Prohibitory orders against unlawful assembly under Section 144 of the CrPC were imposed at the Deonar dump after last month’s monstrous blaze that raged on for days.

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The police, however, claim the law will not be applicable to Rahul since he is an MP. “People’s representatives can enter the ground. Rahul Gandhi is an MP,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner of M-East ward under which the Deonar dumping ground falls.

Sangram Nishandar, deputy commissioner of police, DCP (Zone VI), said besides Rahul, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam and other party leaders, accompanied by municipal corporation staff, will visit the dumping ground. “A list of their names has been sent to the protection department. The place hasn’t been declared a prohibited area yet; a notification on it hasn’t been issued as yet. Also, Section 144 is for unlawful assembly, not for those who have protection.”

Balasaheb Jadhav, senior inspector of Shivaji Nagar police station under whose jurisdiction the dump falls, said there was no clarity till Monday night over whether the prohibitory orders would be revoked on Tuesday for the VVIP visit. “We do not allow anyone inside the Deonar dumping ground, except those who are permitted by the municipal corporation.”

Rais Shaikh, local corporator and Samajwadi Party group leader in the BMC, questioned the sluggishness over declaring the spot a prohibited area. “This exposes BMC’s callous attitude towards the Deonar dumping ground. The plan to declare the area as prohibited zone was nothing but a mere PR exercise and face-saving manoeuvre in the wake of the fire. Rahul’s visit is part of a political campaign for the BMC election.”

Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam confirmed that Rahul will visit the ground with BMC officials and police officers. “He will walk 20-25 m from the dumping ground and see the situation there. It’s (the dumping ground) an important issue, which the Sena-BJP-led BMC failed to address all these years,” he said.

The Deonar dumping ground, which has 12 million tonnes of garbage dumped on over 132 hectares of land, has seen a series of fire outbreaks since January this year.

After the Deonar visit, former Congress minister Milind Deora will accompany Rahul to Zaveri Bazaar around 1.15 pm for an interaction with jewellers.

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