Following the blaze, rumours are rife that a merchant lost Rs 15 crore in cash to the fire, leading to scrap dealers scrambling for the contract to clear the debris
Following Saturday's blaze that consumed the electronics hub in south Mumbai, Sara Sahara mall and Manish market, there is one question that has piqued the curiosity of the locals and has been nagging scrap traders in particular: who gets to clear the debris?
Gold diggers: Rumours that heaps of cash may be buried in the rubble has led to a scramble among scrap dealers to bag the contract to clear the debris. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The interest arises from the speculation that a wealthy Chinese toys dealer has lost Rs 15 crore cash in the blaze. The rumour has led to a scramble of sorts among junk dealers to bag the contract for clearing the debris and sifting through it in the hope of striking gold.
In the wee hours of Saturday, the shopping complex which earlier ran into controversy over allegations that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim has a stake in it, caught fire. More than 400 shops located in the area were charred.
But less than a week later, rumours that the toy dealer had stashed away Rs 15 crore in cash in his office has created a rigmarole in the area. Police officials allege that with the news, several dealers and hawala operators based in the surrounding area have stepped in to obtain the contract of clearing the tonnes of debris.
"Some of these speculations are true, some are not," said Baba Palti, a prominent businessman in Manish market.
Cash and confusion The fact that traders at the market observe Friday as collection day, and clear payments only the next day, that is Saturday, is important. Since the fire took place in the wee hours of Saturday, the notion that all that collection money ought to have been lying in the shop has only fuelled the frenzy.
"We have heard the tender will go to a businessman for Rs 21 per kg. This businessman has ties to the underworld," said a businessman who lost Rs 10 lakh worth of cash in the fire.
Rumours abuzz Meanwhile, the police have cordoned the area. A constable on duty guarding the premises said, "When the businessman realised he had lost Rs 15 crore in the flames, he suffered a heart attack and was admitted to a private hospital. But he has kept mum about the money fearing questioning from government agencies. He had collected the money to pay to a container owner for shipping a consignment."
Said a businessman, on the condition of anonymity, "Not just this, there are several other small dealers who had at least a lakh in cash in their offices and all that may still be buried in the pile of ashes."
Further, since Sara Sahara falls under the Centre's jurisdiction while Manish market in the BMC's, the debris comes within the purview of state as well as centre authorities, and there is confusion regarding the process of floating the tender.
Meanwhile, traders called a meeting headed by a businessman Haroon Dossa, secretary of a major traders association, yesterday where it was proposed that the businessmen should pay Rs 1,000 per sq ft for redevelopment. The issue of assigning the tender of clearing the scrap wasn't on the agenda.
Dossa told this reporter, "I am very busy. We will discuss the issue later. The insurance company will decide on the tender pertaining to the scrap."