Mumbai: Rooftop restaurant in Borivli that BMC refuses to demolish
While police officers raided and shut an illegally run hookah parlour and rooftop restaurant, activist alleges civic body has been dragging its feet over demolition of the illegal structures
All the structures on this rooftop are illegal, but the municipal corporation has not demolished them yet
If you thought the Kamala Mills blaze had finally jolted the BMC into a zero-tolerance attitude towards restaurants with unauthorised construction, think again. The civic body has managed to raze 913 establishments in less than a fortnight since the tragedy, but it seems 15 months are not enough time for officials to demolish illegal alterations to a rooftop restaurant and hookah parlour in Borivli.
In September 2016, the Borivli police raided the five-storey Hotel Granville in Borivli and found unauthorised structures on the rooftop where the management was running a hookah parlour and an open-air restaurant illegally. This is the same combination of factors that led to the fire at Kamala Mills on December 29 that killed 14 people. In fact, the unauthorised construction is even more extensive at Hotel Granville's rooftop, featuring multiple storeys stacked like matchboxes, along with a staircase.
During the raid, the police arrested the owner, six waiters and 13 customers at the hookah parlour. The same year, the BMC also initiated action under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act for the illegal constructions on the terrace but did not remove the structures.
Over a year has passed, and mid-day found the structures still standing on the rooftop. "After the police action, the hookah parlour was shut, but the rooms and structures continue to stand. The ward officials are helping the hotel by dragging their feet on the demolition. The BMC had admitted that the terrace structure is illegal, and they also took action under the MRTP Act," said local MNS leader Prasad Kulapkar, who has been pursuing the matter for more than a year and has filed several complaints at the R-Central ward office.
He further alleged, "When I enquired why the structures had not been demolished, the officials gave the excuse that the matter was in court. This is clear case of shielding the hotel, as there is no court stay on the demolition." What's worse, according to Kulapkar, the terrace structures are serviced only by one narrow staircase, and there is no fire exit, which could lead to customers getting trapped in case of a fire, which is what happened at 1Above and Mojo's Bistro at Kamala Mills.
"The BMC's ongoing action against eateries that violate fire safety norms seems to be an eyewash. Despite complaints, the local ward office is not ready to demolish illegal constructions on the terrace," Kulapkar added. After finding no concrete action against the hotel, Kulapkar filed another complaint at the R-central ward office in March 2017. The designated officer (DO), who is entitled to take action against illegal constructions, responded that the BMC was prosecuting the restaurant and that the case was going on in civil court. The official further stated that further action would be taken after the final order.
Another local MNS leader, Nayan Kadam, alleged, "The illegal terrace structures were not touched, so there is a high possibility that they will start serving hookah there after some time."
The other side
Atul Rao, assistant municipal commissioner of R-Central ward, said, "After our notice, the hotel management had demolished part of the terrace structure. I had visited the place 3-4 months ago and found it shut. On December 31, 2017, we also took action against the illegal shed on the ground floor of the hotel." When asked why the entire rooftop structure had not been demolished, Rao said, "They are not using that part. We have taken action under the MRTP Act, and the case is going on in the civil court. We will now try to speed up the case for further action."
Divyang Patani, the managing director of Hotel Granville, said, "The hookah parlour and open terrace are permanently closed. The open terrace part is permanently closed. For the structure, we have got a stay order from the court against BMC action." However, when mid-day ran an online search on Hotel Granville, reviews given by two customers mentioned open-air dining at the hotel. Patani was also failed to provide a copy of the alleged stay order.
No. of waiters arrested in a raid in 2016
No. of customers arrested in the same raid