After resisting the entry of civic officials into the Campa Cola compound in Worli for three consecutive days, its residents finally backed down on Sunday evening, not only apologising for the inconvenience caused to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), but also deciding to open their gates for officials to carry out the demolition process of illegal flats peacefully.
Earlier in the day, the residents, along with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Bala Nandgaonkar, met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan at his official residence Varsha. “Once the CM got to know we are willing to co-operate with the officials, he assured us he would look into all possible options within the legal framework, one of which is to regularise area that is within the permissible FSI (floor space index). While we are withdrawing our battle against the government, we will now fight the system so we get to save our homes,” said Ashish Jalan, a resident of the compound.
Residents have contended that if the permissible FSI available for the plot is taken into account for regularisation, then only 1,774 square metres of the total construction will have to be demolished, which means around 22 flats or 10 per cent of the 35 illegal floors. Earlier, the BMC had rejected this application.
“With our current stand, we are not only complying with the Supreme Court’s (SC) orders but also asking for area that rightfully belongs to the society. After looking at people suffering in this fight against the BMC, we thought it is not worth the risk to continue like this,” Jalan added.
Residents claim the CM also assured them of a joint meeting with Pure Drinks Ltd to seek a solution. The land in question was leased to the company by the BMC in the 1980s.
Two residents, Usha Saundarya from the Orchid apartments and Sunita Tibrewala from Patel apartments, fainted and were taken to the nearby Bhatia Hospital on Sunday morning, after BMC officials warned residents they were not complying with the SC orders and were obstructing civic servants from carrying out their duty peacefully.
“We have been ordered to only cut gas, electricity and water connections to the 96 illegal flats in the compound. We have been requesting the residents to co-operate with us for the last three days but they are unrelenting. If they keep resisting, we will use more force and machinery to enter the compound. We will start the demolition procedure on Monday morning again,” said Anand Wagralkar, deputy municipal commissioner.
For the last three days, the residents have been protesting against civic officials by shouting slogans and folding their hands in front of them. They had also closed the newly-fitted iron gates leading to the compound and fitted it with bamboo poles to prevent the civic officials from entering.
Meanwhile, residents have also sent an urgent petition to President Pranab Mukherjee, requesting his intervention to stay the demolition of their flats. “We have humbly appealed to the President that there are a lot of senior citizens in this society who have nowhere else to go. We have also written to him that there are a lot of options which can be worked out by the BMC and the state government to save our homes,” said Ankit Shah, a resident of the compound.