If you are tired of watching illegal encroachments mushrooming next to your housing complexes and are wondering what can be done, it is time to take a cue from the residents of this housing society in Powai, who took on a local slumlord and the shanties he built in the open space next to their premises. The residents set an example of what a common man can do to get rid of illegal structures.
For the last eight months, the residents of Powai Lake View Apartments CHS, a property owned by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), had been fighting to reclaim an open space (garden) that was kept reserved for the locals for recreational purposes. The situation had become ugly in the last few months after a local slumlord named Tiwari took over a few shops in the vicinity and then encroached upon the garden measuring 5,000 sq feet.
Residents claimed that Tiwari first purchased one of the five shops from MHADA and rented it to a third party. They alleged that ever since that day, Tiwari had set his eyes on the garden. Soon he captured the open space adjacent to the garden and started building shanties in the garden. Residents said the moment they discovered the encroachment, they approached the local corporator Chandan Sharma and requested him to take action. Despite repeated attempts, Sharma remained unavailable for comment.
The number of shanties in the garden grew with each passing day, leading to an increase in the incidents like chain snatching and harassment of women by the occupants of these illegal structures. Also, Tiwari’s shop had become a meeting point for auto drivers, who would illegally park the vehicles on the premises of the society. The residents also claimed that the drivers would remove their shirt and sit for hours, thus making it difficult for women to use the road.
Society resident Yogesh Rao said, “Though Tiwari bought a shop in the society from MHADA, he still lacks possession papers for the purchased property. He then gave the shop on rent, and encroached upon the free space between the shop and the boundary of our building. He also took over the roofs of five other shops and constructed a residential structure, which is now extending into the garden. His illegal shop is a hub for auto drivers, who park their vehicles inside the society. Due to this, incidences of chain snatching and harassment are occurring on a regular basis.”
Fed up of the nuisance, the residents approached the police for help but claimed that officials of Powai police station registered a non-cognisable (NC) offence instead of an FIR. “We haven’t received any complaints from the residents. Besides, there has been no incident of chain snatching in the past two months. Our people patrol the area on a regular-basis,” B Bhosale, senior inspector, Powai police station.
Fed up waiting, the locals then approached MHADA officials, who immediately swung into action to salvage the situation. Based on the complaints received from the residents, MHADA CEO N K Sudanshu ordered demolition of the illegal shanties, which will be conducted on June 5. “We have taken immediate action to demolish the illegal structure. The residents will soon breathe a sigh of relief.”
Residents alleged that the second garden in the vicinity was also used for wrong purposes. They claimed a restaurant-cum-lounge was using this space as a parking facility for its customers. In addition, an illegal structure had cropped up in the garden and the residents feared that soon this space too would be encroached upon soon, unless for timely action from the authorities.
Commenting on the usage of the garden by Rude Lounge as its private property, a resident said, “This bar uses the garden as a parking lot. The cars parked here create a lot of nuisance. It’s a residential area. The garden is also used to dump empty liquor bottles. Moreover, shanties have started mushrooming in the open space.” When contacted, lounge manager Sarjero Thorat said, “We have a separate car park for our visitors. We do use the space for car parking, but it is seldom. Bottles aren’t an issue, as they can be cleared in no time.”
Damayanti Mande (60), a victim of an attempted chain snatching incident who managed to hold on to her gold chain when she was attacked, said, “Though I lodged a complaint with the police, they didn’t take me seriously. There are several such incidents that go unreported.” “This is a housing society, not a rickshaw stand. They (auto drivers) come here and relax for hours. In the evening they bunch up and pass lewd comments at young girls and women. Recently, an 8-year-old girl was subjected to their harassment. It has become a big nuisance,” said Sharmila Naik.