Tussle over open gym continues as Nitesh Rane's NGO opens food stall

The controversy surrounding the open air gym at the Marine Drive promenade inaugurated last week by Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray refuses to die down, with Swabhiman Sanghatana, an NGO led by Congress MLA Nitesh Rane, on Wednesday opening a vada-pav stall near the fitness station.

Rane had reportedly threatened to put up this stall next to the gym in protest against the permission given to it. The Swabhiman Sanghatana says it wants the food stall to be regularised by the civic body just as it did in the case of the gymnasium.

The food stall, which opened on Wednesday morning, started serving vada-pavs and kombadi-vade, a non-veg delicacy from the Konkan region of Maharashtra and a number of customers were seen buying the eatables throughout the day. The sign-board written in Marathi on the handcart that sells the food items, reads 'Swabhiman Vada ani Kombadi Vade' and also carries a line, which states that the initiative has been launched for the Maharashtrians.

The open air fitness station installed by actor Dino Morea on the Marine Drive last Wednesday was inaugurated by Aaditya Thackeray and actor Jacqueline Fernandes. However, the next day the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) workers had reportedly dismantled it saying it was illegal. But, they put it back together on learning that the permissions were in order. Rane had jumped into the controversy stating that his NGO would start a vada-pav stall near the gym.

When contacted, Swabhiman Sanghatana spokesperson Santosh Kubal said, "We have opened the stall here and asking BMC to regularise it as it did in case of the open gym." Through this initiative, we want to ask the municipal commissioner about his professional compulsions when he was forced to use his discretionary powers to regularise the gym, he said.

"Justice should be equal to all. Just because the gym was inaugurated by Uddhav Thackeray's son Aaditya, how can it be regularised? And if that can be regularised, then why not our food stall?...the commissioner should explain," Kubal said, adding, the stall would be operated by women staff only.

Earlier, Mumbai NCP had also said it would set up self-help group stalls on the famed promenade if the gymnasium was not removed. Congress had also alleged that although it had sought permission to install similar fitness station in 2013, the then municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte had denied it.

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