The turf war in Karaya’s Palm Avenue, which has seen a real estate boom over the past few years, has brought to light the rampant unauthorised construction going on in the area under the alleged patronage of local gangs.
Locals say clashes over profits earned from this racket have “destroyed” peace in the area.
“There are lot of criminal activities going on in Karaya, Bondel Gate Road, Ballygunj Rail Gate area. Many anti-social elements are active here. They extort money from promoters and then divide it among themselves. Not one construction here can be initiated without paying them. These people enjoy political patronage”, said Zubaid Hussain, a local.
According to people connected with promoting businesses in the adjoining areas, these gangs charge promoters around Rs 150 per square ft for allowing illegal construction. A cut from this also goes to “several powerful people”.
“The current real estate price in the area is a minimum of Rs 4,000 per square ft and can go up to around Rs 6,000. Real estate prices here have gone up in the last few years. Promoters have constructed tall buildings in lanes which are not even 8 ft wide,” a local, who has been staying in the area for over a decade, told The Indian Express.
Residents alleged that Sanaur Hussain (main accused arrested in connection with the attack on a 22-year-old on Wednesday night) controls the illegal construction and promotion of business in the area. He is close to many dons, they further claimed.
Sources said Palm Avenue was earlier controlled by one Sahzada Baksh, who was active when the Left Front used to rule. Baksh is in jail since 2014 on charges of raping two minors. After Baksh was put behind bars, Sanaur came to power, and has monopolised the area over the last 4-5 years. Sources also alleged that at present, 10-12 under construction buildings in Palm Avenue are illegal.
“The problem of illegal construction in Palm Avenue, Tiljala Masjid Bari lane, Shibtala Lane, Broad Street is not new. Since long, local dons have fought over domination here. For a few years, it was peaceful. But now, a few faces have again emerged, leading to fresh turf wars. The rival camps often clash with each other,” said a local police officer.
Nivedita Sharma, councillor of ward number 65 and member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, told The Indian Express, “Yes, illegal construction in the area is on the rise and the factional feud of the ruling party has made it worse. In the past, we have notified the KMC and also informed police. Even FIRs have been lodged but now police should take a call and do the needful.”
Police sources said their anti-rowdy section is likely to make more arrests in connection with the clash that took place on Wednesday night.