Mumbai: Shiv Sena minister uses Rs 25 crore crafts village as his private club
BJP has alleged that Ravindra Waikar's club has been allowed to keep private access gates to the green space that is yet to open
The city's first crafts village, Shilpgram, is yet to open, and it has already mired in controversy again. This time, the uproar is not about the delay in opening - it's been more than a year since the project was completed - but about alleged largesse towards Matoshree Club. The club, run by Shiv Sena Minister Ravindra Waikar, has been allowed to keep two private access gates to the Shilpgram.
Local BJP corporator Ujwala Modak has alleged that the BMC allowed not one, but two private access gates to the Shilpgram from Matoshree Arts and Sports Trust, popularly known as Matoshree Club.
Spread across 7 acres of green space, Shilpgram currently has three gates. The main entrance gate is located at Poonam Nagar on Vallabhai Patel Road, complete with a signboard that reads Matoshree Meenatai Thackeray Shilpgram. The other two gates lead to the Matoshree Club premises, which are on the adjoining plot and share a compound wall with the crafts village.
While weeds have left one of the two private access gates unusable, civic officials said the protocol is to remove both gates altogether
Modak has termed these gates illegal, and alleged that despite her objection and complaint, civic officials kept them as is. According to sources, when the civic body develops any garden or open space, it constructs boundary walls to avoid any illegal entry, and also ensures that there are only one or two official gates for visitors, and no private property is given special access.
Speaking to mid-day, Modak alleged, "When construction work was going on, I had visited Shilpgram. At the time, I had told officials from the Garden Cell that a boundary wall should be constructed in place of these two gates, as public open spaces cannot have private gates. But the officials clearly favoured Matoshree Club, which is run by Minister Ravindra Waikar, and allowed the two gates to remain."
Sena minister Ravindra Waikar is in charge of Matoshree Club
She added, "I am sure the club will misuse these gates and will allow their guests to use them. The club members will have direct access to the Shilpgram, which is illegal. These gates should be closed off as soon as possible, and only the main gate should be used." A senior official from the BMC's Garden Cell confirmed, "These gates have been there since Matoshree Club was constructed. During the construction of the Shilpgram, the gate was used to carry materials to the site, as there was a lack of access routes. Ideally, it should have been closed by constructing a proper boundary wall, but that never happened."
State minister Ravindra Waikar said, " I don't want to comment much on this. The allegation was made on the basis of half-baked information. She [Modak] doesn't know the details of the project. There was no interference or pressure from me regarding the gate." Sena corporator Anant Nar defended the gates and said, "The allegation made by Ujwala Modak is politically motivated. BJP wants to take credit and that's why they are making such allegations."
He added, "These gates were earlier used for logistics during the Shilpgram's development. Now, there is one gate that has been kept for emergency use. These gates are locked and nobody from the club premises is allowed to use them." Neither Dr Kishor Kshirsagar, deputy municipal commissioner, nor Satish Jadhav, executive engineer of the Garden Cell, were available for comment.
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A glimpse into Mumbai's first craft village