Mumbai: Port Trust trains guns on Radio Club

Updated: 13 December, 2016 10:33 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Recently, a clutch of SoBo residents, some from Darukhana near Reay Road and a majority Colaba locals sought an appointment with Bombay Port Trust (MbPT) chief Sanjay Bhatia

The Radio Club with the sea lapping its shores. That has always been the Colaba club's USP
The Radio Club with the sea lapping its shores. That has always been the Colaba club's USP

Recently, a clutch of SoBo residents, some from Darukhana near Reay Road and a majority Colaba locals sought an appointment with Bombay Port Trust (MbPT) chief Sanjay Bhatia. They sought clarity on the long simmering Port Trust issue, where the Port Trust is to take back and develop large swathes of land in the area. This land includes commercial and residential buildings.

Radio Club officials were alarmed to hear Bhatia say that the club is the first MbPT target. "Bhatia was categorical that the Radio Club will be the first target," they said, though Bhatia tried to water down the alarm. He laughed when asked to verify if the sea-kissed club would be target No 1 and said, "No, I did not say that. I simply stated that we will expedite the court case." A number of SoBo landmarks are in court against the Port Trust which is moving to take back its land they are built on.

Prakash Mirchandani and Sanjay Bhatia
Prakash Mirchandani and Sanjay Bhatia

Radio Club, a 90-year-old landmark near the Gateway of India, next to the Taj has pressed the panic button and the club is going to play host to a meeting of a large number of MbPT affected on Saturday, December 17 evening, along with Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant who the residents and organizations against the Port Trust, say is batting for them.
Manu Bhavnani, Radio Club managing committee member said, "Bhatia's statement is alarming. We are all worried as it was extremely categorical. The club is like a second home to 7,500 members and their families. I have been a member since 58 years. I cannot imagine life without it."

Radio Club Jt. Hon Secretary Prakash Mirchandani added, "I have heard that they are targeting the Radio Club. We have always been on their radar, but now it seems there seems to be a concerted effort and we are taking this threat seriously. Our members do know of this. We are ready to pay some shortfall, if the Port Trust claims we have not paid, but it should not be exorbitant. The Govt. has to consider the paucity of open spaces in Colaba-Cuffe Parade, the sports facilities that members can avail of here. On one hand, you talk about producing Olympic champions, on the other; you take away sporting facilities which clubs offer."

Bhatia says for the Port Trust, the Radio Club site is ideal for a "public jetty, all reports and previous studies testing the feasibility of a jetty indicate that this is a good location. The entire land belongs to the Port Trust, from the Club's pier to the premises."

Viren A, lawyer representing Radio Club brushes off talk about "trying to expedite the case" saying that there are millions of matters in the court. "The matter is subjudice. Tomorrow, I can say I want the Taj Mahal, I can say anything, and the court will have to determine the outcome of the matter." Colaba's Pervez Cooper insisted, "The Port Trust did say there will be a takeover and Radio Club is our first target. There is climate of fear over Colaba. How can one destroy the fabric of the city? A middle path has to be found."

Colaba's G Chainani adds, "It was said at the meeting that the club is going, it is going to go away," while Colaba's Sabrina Advani endorses this. Meanwhile, it is not just Radio Club that is facing the Port Trust heat. The other club in the vicinity, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club is also in the Port Trust's firing line. President Ardhendu Bose had addressed the Port Trust problem in a letter to members earlier this month, as he was contesting for president. An excerpt from his letter dated December 8, had touched upon the Port Trust and lease issue saying, "We have to work towards augmentation of our cash flow to have the corpus which will help us tackle the MBPT matter." Clearly there is much turbulence for clubs located off the waters near the Gateway of India.

Political colour: SOS to Shiv Sena

Residents with Aditya Thackeray
Residents with Aditya Thackeray

The issue has taken on a political hue with Colaba residents asking Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant to intervene. Sawant said, 'I will be at the Radio Club meeting on Saturday. I am going to protect the residents. These are not encroachers or slum dwellers how can they be evicted? There are several issues that we will sort out." SoBo locals met Aditya Thackeray too, on Monday yesterday and tried to persuade him to join their meeting on Saturday, December 17 at Radio Club.

First Published: 13 December, 2016 09:19 IST

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