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Mumbai: Kalina residents see red over demolition drive

Updated on: 25 January,2024 06:57 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

Claim MIAL staff’s actions were unauthorised, latter says they followed due process

Mumbai: Kalina residents see red over demolition drive

The families of airline employees protest against the demolition of Indian Airlines Colony at Kalina in Santacruz East on January 24. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Key Highlights

  1. Residents contend that MIAL staff initiated “unauthorised” demolitions
  2. MIAL maintains that it refrained from touching any occupied buildings
  3. The demolition could not be carried out as residents clung to buildings

The ongoing dispute between the families of staffers of Indian Airlines and Air India residing in four colonies in Kalina and the Adani Group-controlled Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) reached a critical point as the latter began demolishing uninhabited buildings in one locality on Tuesday evening.

Residents of Indian Airlines Colony contend that MIAL staff, accompanied by a large police force, not only initiated “unauthorised” demolitions but also threatened them. On the other hand, MIAL maintains that it refrained from touching any occupied buildings, adhered to legal procedures and remained dedicated to ensuring the smooth functioning of the airport. The demolition could not be carried out as residents clung to buildings and women from the society sat in front of the JCB machine.

Residents alleged that the staff of MIAL/Adani Group resorted to intimidation, threats and insults while enjoying full support from the local police. “They barged into our society around 3 pm and didn’t show us any letter of authorisation. While we were talking to them, they started tearing down one of the buildings. When we told them that while the case was being heard in the Supreme Court, what authority did they have to carry out the demolition, they asked us, ‘What case?’,” said Sandeep Drave, general secretary of Indian Airlines Colony.

Another resident, Chau Mikalen, said, “Our case is being heard by the Supreme Court. On November 8, 2023, the government of India already filed an affidavit, stating that the land on which the four colonies, including ours, are located belongs to Air India Asset Holding Limited, which is part of the Union ministry of civil aviation. This is what we know. All of a sudden, MIAL and Adani Group have come out, stating that this land belongs to them. There has been no transparency in the matter.”

Land facts

As per the residents, around 350 families live in these four colonies and they were served eviction notices in September 2023. As per sources, Air India occupies 184 acres of land in Kalina, which first belonged to the government-owned Airports Authority of India but was then passed on to GVK Industries when Mumbai airport was privatised, and now belongs to the Adani Group. The total land taken up by Air India is 7.4 lakh sq m. The four colonies, including two schools, are spread over 2,15,761 sq m. Apart from this, the 184 acres of land also includes the area taken up by the Air India Sports Club. About 24,008 sq m had been earlier surrendered by Air India to MIAL while the lease for 27,609 sq metres had expired.

Mahadev P Desai, president of the New Air India Colony, told mid-day, “I have been residing here for the past 38 years, and my children grew up here. When these staff quarters were provided, it was mentioned that we could stay here as long as we were employed or until we retired. We have no alternative homes to go to with our families."

‘Facing harassment’

Residents allege they face threats not only from MIAL staffers but also from law enforcement. An anonymous resident expressed, "These have been our homes for decades. At least let us live here until our husbands retire. Where will we go? While crores were spent on building a Ram temple in Ayodhya, our homes were targeted just a day after the consecration ceremony."

A woman highlighted the vulnerability felt by the residents, especially after MIAL workers inspected houses without warning, saying, “They think we are helpless women. Since Tuesday's episode, we have had a wink of sleep, as fearing they will return anytime to demolish our buildings.” The residents also claimed that since they received eviction notices, increments had been withheld, salary payments had been delayed and security guards had ceased to be paid.

Shashikant Salunkhe, president of the Air India Staff Colony, proposed a constructive solution, suggesting that the vast land available could be used to build a complex for the affected families. Drave emphasised the interconnected infrastructure of the vacant buildings, cautioning that demolition could disrupt essential services for all residents. He urged MIAL and the Adani Group to cooperate, provide the necessary authorisation and refrain from acting in a confrontational manner.

MIAL’s version

A statement issued by MIAL read, “Mumbai International Airport Limited has initiated the demolition of 20 uninhabited, dilapidated structures at the Air India Colony, conducted in strict adherence to the law and in accordance with the permission/handover granted by AIAHL, the PSU Asset Holding Company of Erstwhile Air India. This has been done as part of its comprehensive redevelopment plan of the airport land. At present, no demolition steps have been undertaken for the remaining 80+ buildings within the colony, which are currently occupied. Due process of law by filing eviction applications under the AAI Act is being followed for the same. MIAL remains committed to upholding the law and is dedicated to ensuring a smooth functioning of the airport. This redevelopment initiative is a crucial step in the airport’s ongoing efforts to contribute to the expansion and improvement of existing passenger facilities.”

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