In another instance of political meddling in administrative matters -- whether to gratify vote banks or for personal reasons -- a Congress MLA and a local corporator tried to stop the demolition of an illegally constructed part of a Malad school.
MiD DAY has documented proof that while the BMC had cleared the tearing down of an illegal construction on the premises of Lilawati English School at Heera Park, it was stalled after interference from MLA Rajhans Singh and corporator Ajit Raorane.
They told us so: Activist Asad Patel learnt through an RTI query that the corporator and the MLA had asked the BMC not to take any action against the school on humanitarian grounds
An RTI activist, Asad Patel, unearthed the duo's intervention through an RTI query to the BMC.
Action imminent On November 29, 2007 the BMC had issued a notice under Section 351 of Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act, informing the school that it had constructed a part of its building illegally. According to the notice (copy with MiD DAY), the school had, without any authorisation, constructed a separate room of bricks. In its notice, the BMC clearly warned school authorities to justify the construction work carried out within the school premises, or be prepared for the BMC to pull down the illegal construction.
The notice also specified that in case of demolition, the school authorities would be solely responsible for evacuation. The BMC warned the authorities that in case of failure to submit the requisite documents, civic authorities would proceed with action against them under Section 475A of the MMC Act, which is punishable with imprisonment and fine.
But in the four years that have elapsed since the notice was issued, civic officials have not moved a single stone.
To shed light on the matter, Patel filed an application on March 3, seeking a reply from the BMC on its inaction.
But the corporation replied that it has no information regarding the unauthorised construction at the school.
Undaunted, Patel appealed to higher authorities under RTI provisions on September 29, seeking the same information, and during the course of the hearing, got what he sought.
In its RTI response (copy with MiD DAY), the BMC first stated that school authorities had submitted some of the essential documents, and then cited letters from Congress MLA Rajhans Singh and local corporator Ajit Raorane, requesting the BMC to stop the action against the unauthorised construction at the school.
The BMC further stated that the politicians argued that since a lot of children go to the school, it should be given some consideration on humanitarian grounds.
MiD DAY also has a copy of Raorane's letter asking the BMC to cooperate with the school.
"It is shocking for me that an MLA and a corporator are protecting an illegal school on humanitarian grounds. By this logic, why should the BMC take action against other illegal constructions?" said Patel.
Till date, the BMC has not given a clean chit to the school.
The other side In his defence, Ajit Raorane said, "I had written a letter to the BMC. But it was just a request, I had not pressurised them... I had clearly asked the BMC to scrutinise the documents and only then cooperate with the school authorities."
While Rajhans Singh did not respond to MiD DAY's calls and text messages, K R Tiwari, chairman of Lilawati English High School, refused to comment on the issue.