Monday, August 9, 2010

Encroachers ‘take over’ government property all over city

Mumbai: When chief minister Ashok Chavan asked municipal commissioner Swadheen Kshatriya to launch a demolition drive against all illegal structures in the city, he perhaps did not realise that several plots owned by different government departments were being fast encroached upon.

The government has extended the deadline for illegal slums from 1995 to 2000.

According to official records, the are 6,720 slums in Goregaon’s Aarey Colony. The officials had sought Rs 20 crore to construct a protection wall, but their proposal hasn’t been sanctioned by Mantralaya.

Land owned by the revenue department has also been heavily encroached upon. In 2005, Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was the chief minister at that time, had ordered a crackdown on encroachers and several tracts of land at Kandivli, Gorai, Manori, Mankhurd and Govandi were cleared by the then suburban collector S S Zende Patil.

But soon, politicians, cutting across party lines, joined forces and demanded that the drive be stopped. A few Congress MPs and MLAs also approached the party high command and managed to bring the drive to a halt. The then Mhada chief T Chandrashekhar had demanded plots from this land bank for low-cost housing. In 2007, these plots were encroached upon again.

At Sanjay Gandhi National Park, forest officials removed tracts of slums after a high court court ordered them to do so on May 7, 1997. But of late, 20 to 30 slums have been springing up at the park on a daily basis.

In Colaba, the Navy recently complained that the number of hutments along the coast was rising. “The city collectorate is supposed take action against people who encroach on the coasts,’’ said a Coast Guard official who also pointed out that encroachments from Sewri to Mazgaon docks were not being tackled by the collectorate.

Encroachments on several plots of Mhada in Mumbai also continue. In the eastern suburbs, a police station has encroached on a Mhada plot meant for petrol pump.

Housing expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu said, “ I am quite happy that the government has woken up. But to my surprise, I found slums at Girgaum Chowpatty (revenue land) on Wednesday.’’ Kshatriya said that he would plan a demolition drive after monsoon.

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