Powai residents battle slumlord to save public garden

Having scored a victory by getting illegal shanties on the 5,000-sq ft MHADA plot demolished in 2013, the residents are now fighting to fend off another attempt to encroach upon it; the slumlord is now allegedly paving the corridor leading to the plot and using hawkers to capture it

In 2013, residents of a MHADA society in Powai thought they had fought the good fight against an encroaching slumlord and won. Only now are they beginning to realise that they had won just one battle in what promises to be a prolonged war.

Battle’s won, not the war: The slumlord has allegedly encroached upon the corridor leading up to the plot
Battle’s won, not the war: The slumlord has allegedly encroached upon the corridor leading up to the plot

When a local slumlord, Tiwari, had begun constructing shanties on a 5,000-sq ft open plot marked for a recreational ground or a garden by MHADA in 2013, the residents of Powai Lake View Apartments CHS began raising their voice.

A 160 sq ft plot in front of the society
A 160 sq ft plot in front of the society

When the occupants of these illegal structures began troubling women in the area, the residents’ voice got shriller and they approached the police. When even that proved futile, they approached MHADA, and officials demolished the structures a couple of days after mid-day reported on the issue in June that year.

Peace reigned until a few months ago, when Tiwari allegedly began eyeing the garden again and took a slew of measures designed to take him closer to his goal.

When mid-day visited the society, which is behind Powai police station, yesterday, we noticed that not only has the area leading up to the plot been paved and beautified, the slumlord has allegedly also encroached upon nearly 160 sq ft of the road in front of the society by laying tiles on it, probably in preparation of erecting an illegal structure there. That 160 sq ft of open plot alone is worth at least Rs 30 lakh.

Hawk-eye
Residents claim that the road Ram Bag lane leading to Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road from their society also suddenly has a lot of hawkers, who are being given protection by Tiwari. “There were no hawkers and illegal food stalls on the road, which has been taken over by the BMC, earlier.

They have been given protection by Tiwari and they put their carts in the garden so that they can capture the space for him. Our pleas to MHADA, which owns the plot, have been falling on deaf ears,” said a resident of the society.

“The slumlord and some shopkeepers have been trying to extend and enclose the area around the shops in the building, thus encroaching upon the recreational ground, which is meant for public use. We had foiled a similar attempt in 2013 with the help of MHADA, BMC and the local police.

Similar cooperation is expected from the authorities this time since we are taking proactive steps to stop this encroachment on public land,” said another resident. Despite repeated attempts, the MHADA official in-charge of the Powai area and BMC ward officer (S Ward) Prashant Gaikwad remained unavailable for comment.

Changing strategies
While the slumlord had erected shanties on the land earlier, he is now making hawkers park their carts there and paving the corridor leading up to the plot to slowly lay claim on it

This 160 sq ft area is worth at least Rs 30 lakh at the current realty rates in the area

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