BJP MP Gopal Shetty threatens mid-day reporter when asked about encroachment on open space
'Tumhaara notice gayaa khadde me', that's what BJP MP Gopal Shetty tells mid-day reporter questioning him about BMC's show-cause notice over alleged illegal occupation of a playground-reserved plot in Borivli
"If you write the story, I will send public to your house." This is the threat BJP MP Gopal Shetty gave to this correspondent reporting about the alleged illegal open space occupation by a trust backed by him and the civic body's procrastination in the matter.
The Adi Ganesh Charitable Trust has been running a gymnasium and zumba dance classes on the plot and has even sublet a part of it to a football academy for a huge rent
It's been 11 months since the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued a notice to the Adi Ganesh Charitable Trust for illegally occupying a big chunk of a plot admeasuring 4,200 square metres in Borivli West and running a gymnasium, zumba dance classes and football turf on it.
While the BMC is still dragging its feet on this one, not having followed up on its notice, Shetty said, "There is no encroachment on the open space. You come to the spot, I will call the public and show you what is legal or illegal. If you don't come, I have your number and will find your address and come to your place with my people. Come to my office in the morning and we will sit with the public; then you explain what is illegal in it."
While Kunal Kerkar of the trust remained unavailable for comment, Shetty accepted that Kerkar was a BJP office-bearer and that he supported his gymnasium. When told about BMC's notice sent to him and the trust he said, "Tumhara notice gayaa khadde me (throw the notice into a pit). Go behind terrorists and tax evaders; tum paper walon ko dhandha nahi hai kya, jo story banate rehte ho (You press people don't have work, making up stories). If there is anything wrong, the police and BMC will take action."
No space for locals
Following a complaint filed by activist Reji Abraham, who runs United Association for Social Education and Public Welfare Trust that fights for environment and open spaces, on January 5, the BMC had issued a show-cause notice to the trust, stating that as the trust hadn't been officially given the plot, its occupation was illegal. The BMC had asked it to file a reply within seven days on why the civic body shouldn't take over the plot. But after that, there was no follow-up.
Speaking to mid-day, Abraham said, "In 2006, a huge gym and welfare centre were constructed on the plot reserved for a playground. As per the Development Control Rules, such constructions are not permitted on a playground-reserved plot. Political patronage helped the trust to take over the plot and construct on it with the help of Shetty's MLA fund under MHADA's improvement board.
"Kerkar's Gymnasium is making crores from memberships and events, functions and parties held on its premises. Also, an illegal zumba class is being conducted there since years, earning the trust a lot of money. As if this is not enough, the trust has illegally sublet a part of the plot to a football academy for a huge rental - Rs 1,500-2,000 per hour. This has robbed the general public, as there isn't any space left for the youths and locals."
As per rules, if an open space is developed with MLA fund via MHADA, it has to be handed over to the civic body. According to civic officials, in this case, there has been no agreement between the civic body, MHADA and the trust.
Last year, Reji had filed a petition before the Lokayukta on illegal occupation and misuse of a few open spaces in Kandivli and Borivli, following which, on December 2016, a report prepared by the R-Central ward had confirmed the illegality by the trust. Reji had then lodged a complaint on July 11 with the Borivli police sending a letter to the local ward office to carry out an inspection of the plot and take action against the guilty.
When asked why no action has been taken against the trust till date, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of R-Central (Borivli) ward, Atul Rao said, "Because the plot was developed by MHADA's fund, they will have to hand it over to the BMC. After that, we can take further action. We have sent several reminders to MHADA for this." When contacted, a MHADA official said he would have to check the relevant documents as the issue was years old.
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