Shiv Sena snubs Bombay High Court, keeps vada pav stalls running
Cocking a snook at the Bombay High Court Chief Justice’s first order asking BMC to shut Shiv Vada Pav stalls, the party gets shops to temporarily remove the signboards and function brazenly
These stalls are still in operation despite a High Court order to shut them. Though the boards have been given a fresh coat of paint, the ‘Shiv Vada Pav’ is still visible underneath the whitewash (left). Pic/Nimesh Dave
Unwilling to close its trademark Shiv Vada Pav stalls despite a demolition order from the Bombay High Court, the Shiv Sena seems to have cooked up a shrewd plan to keep going – stalls across the city continue to operate illegally after merely whitewashing the name off their signboards. Thanks to this paint job, BMC officials now claim they can’t demolish these stalls because, at least on paper, no stalls exist by that name.
Even as the fast food stalls try to pull a fast one on the HC, a Ghatkopar-based NGO Janseva Mandal is unwilling to swallow the lie. Umesh Mohite, the counsel for Janseva Mandaltood said, “We have done our survey and found that stalls have simply been removing their names so they can continue to operate in connivance with the BMC and Sena workers.”
mid-day found this stall operating just 100 metres from the high court, with ‘Shiv Vada Pav’ whitewashed off the board
In fact, when mid-day visited some of the stalls yesterday, several were still operating illegally. One such vendor was barely 100 metres from the high court, and even though the stall no longer bore the name ‘Shiv Vada Pav’, the vendor was still the same. On the condition of anonymity, he told mid-day, “It was the senior Sena leaders who asked us to remove the name from the signboard and also remove the stall structure. Now we are merely operating with a cooking counter.” At yet another spot in Goregaon, this reporter could still glimpse a faded ‘Shiv Vada Pav’ on the board, as the stall was busy serving hot snacks to customers.
Senior Sena leader Arvind Sawant, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) from South Mumbai, refuted the claim that Sena had asked the stall owners to whitewash the stall name. However, he indirectly seemed to admit that the stalls that were still operating did indeed belong to the Sena. “We have high regard for the Honourable Court. But this petition is filed with malafide interests. Somebody is against the poor Marathi youths who are provided jobs by the Shiv Vada Pav stalls. If we remove our stall, somebody else will install a stall there illegally. With our stalls, one gets the guarantee of good quality vada pav,” said Sawant.
BMC swallows the lie
The HC had given the BMC until November 14 to take action against these stalls, but sources said that the officials are unwilling to do anything since the Sena is the ruling party in the civic body. The BMC certainly seems more than willing to gobble up the lie. While deputy municipal commissioner Ranjit Dhakne from the encroachment removal department unavailable for comment, another senior official from the BMC said, “We have till date not acted on any stalls. Our stand is very clear — Shiv Vada Pav stalls don’t exist anymore.”
'Will approach HC'
“We will bring this matter before the HC, as it is clearly in contempt of the court’s orders,” said Mohite from Janseva Mandal, which is the same NGO that had filed the original petition in the high court pointing out that the stalls had been running for several years without the state government’s permission. The Shiv Vada Pav scheme was Sena’s ambitious project to popularise the city’s trademark dish while providing employment to the Marathi youth. The proposal was passed in a BMC Standing Committee meeting in 2009, and land was to be allotted by the civic body as well, but the plan was rejected by the state government. Despite this, the stalls mushroomed across Mumbai and Thane, and became a success. Hundreds of customers were drawn to the stalls, sold on the idea that since it was an initiative by the Sena, it offered better quality. The idea became quite popular, and the Sena would get about 4,000 applications for each stall.
Janseva Mandal’s petition claimed that there were at least 250 such stalls running under the ‘Shiv’ brand name without government authorisation. The NGO also alleged that the party was taking money under the table to allot stalls, and further claimed that the party workers would also collect hafta from the vendors.
The matter was heard by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, who had just taken charge in the HC. Along with Justice Mahesh Sonak, she passed her first order on August 22, asking the BMC to act against all Shiv Vada Pav stalls that cook in open and don’t have a licence or the requisite permission under Section 394 of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai Act, 1888.
The court gave the civic body a deadline of 12 weeks to take action — this period ended a month ago. Sources said that removing the name was a strategic decision taken in a high-level meeting between senior Sena leaders and civic officials, to take the heat off the stalls for a while until the matter blows over.
Zunka Bhakar scheme
The Sena- BJP government had come up with a similar scheme — the Zunka Bhakar Kendra (ZBK) scheme, which aimed to create employment across the state with 6,311 stalls. Over time, however, the stalls were occupied by commercial ventures instead. In 2001, the HC directed civic bodies to take charge of the stalls, but this remains an ongoing problem.
Number of Shiv Vada Pav stalls in operation
Time in which the stalls have been operative
Average number of applications for each stall allotment
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