A 3,994 sq m plot adjacent to Vivanta by Taj-President (earlier Hotel President) in Cuffe Parade has become another precious open space lost to the city. Originally belonging to the Collector, the plot had been handed over to the hotel for development and maintenance. Ex-corporator Vinod Shekhar has alleged that the licence period of the hotel had expired in 1991, and therefore it should be handed back to the Collector. The hotel had applied for a renewal of their agreement but a decision is yet to be taken by the state government.
The reservation of the plot had been changed to a garden from that of a market, and since the civic body could not use the plot for its assigned purpose, it gave it to Hotel President on a licence basis. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The possession of the land was given to the BMC on March 24, 1980. But later, the reservation of the plot was changed to that of a garden from a retail market, and since the civic body could not use the plot for its assigned purpose, it gave this plot to Hotel President on a licence basis. They were supposed to develop and maintain the garden. The period of the licence was October 1986 to October 1991 at Rs 1 per annum. The licence stands expired as of now.
According to a letter written by the erstwhile Collector to the then municipal commissioner dated December 30, 1998, the state government’s Revenue and Forests department had granted this particular plot to the BMC for developing a composite retail market.
In the letter, the Collector had also ordered that the hotel be allowed to retain the plot for a garden on the same terms and conditions as the previous agreement. However, a fresh agreement of the management of the garden was to be prepared separately with the Collector. Even the BMC had consented to keep the plot with the hotel until it was returned to the Collector.
“It has been more than 15 years since then. Why wasn’t a fresh agreement prepared? And how can they keep a plot without licence? It should be handed back immediately and a criminal case should be filed against all those who failed to take action in the matter,” said Shekhar.
He also alleged that the space is inaccessible to the public as a garden and is used for the hotel’s guests. But when mid-day visited the garden on Sunday evening, the garden watchman insisted that it was open for public use. A board at the garden’s gate also declared so. However, there were no visitors.
Rohin Punjabi, a resident of Casablanca building opposite the garden said, “The last time I went to this garden was when I was five. Since then, neither I have been there, nor have I seen people go there. It is not accessible for the public. My parents go to the farther Bayview garden for a walk. If this one was available, they would have gone here.” A group of kids playing football nearby also said that they are not allowed inside.
A Shaila, Collector, Mumbai city, said, “Yes, the plot originally belongs to the Collector and the hotel’s lease is over. They have applied for a fresh lease but the decision will be taken by the state government.”
When asked if any action will be taken against the hotel for shutting the garden to the public, she said, “I will have to check the agreement and then decide on any action.”
The other side
An email was sent to the hotel’s General Manager on this issue on Saturday, but he did not get back till the time of copy going to press. The Public Relations manager of the hotel also did not revert with a comment.