AHEAD OF the upcoming civic elections, political parties, in an apparent bid to protect their vote banks in the populated slums, challenged the civic body’s decision to raze all the illegal structures above the height of 14 feet in the slum areas of the city.
Defending the residents of Behrampada, including the six people who lost their lives to a fire which broke out last week, Shiv Sena corporators demanded that all single-storey illegal structures be exempted from demolition.
During the standing committee meeting on Wednesday, the leader of the House and Sena leader Trushna Vishwasrao called for a point of order and stated that instead of demolishing structures which exceed 14 feet in height, the corporation should not demolish slums where structures are single storey. Her stand was supported by the Congress and the Samajwadi Party who argued that the civic body was biased against the slum population.
“The civic body should take action against all illegal construction instead of only targeting the poor people. Why the BMC have such double standards and why doesn’t it take similar action against buildings where the elite reside?” he asked.
Corporators from BJP and MNS, however, supported the civic body’s decision. While Sandeep Deshpande of MNS spoke out in support of the municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta and stated that the civic body cannot adopt isolated standards for slums due to political interests, Manoj Kotak of BJP addressed the Sena corporators and said, “It is unacceptable to pressurise the commissioner to stop demolition of illegal structures when he is working as per the state government-approved norms.”
In response, Congress corporator and leader of opposition, Pravin Chheda took a jibe at BJP and stated that such action would never be taken against buildings owing to their support for the builders. “Like BJP has done in the past, the chief minister will intervene at some point and stop the demolition from taking place to emerge as the hero of the day. If the administration is so adamant about demolishing illegal structures, why are buildings like Campa Cola still standing?” asked Chheda.
Congress had opposed the issue earlier this year as well when they had demanded that slums which have come up before 2000 should be allowed to be 20-feet-high as they pushed for the regularisation of slums. Taking note of the stand put forth by corporators of various parties, the civic chief Ajoy Mehta made certain relaxations about the demolition action to be taken against slums.
“Immediate action will be taken against all ongoing illegal constructions and officials who fail to do so will be pulled up. For now, we have issued directions to demolish the structures which are 5-6 storeys high and pose as a danger to the residents. We can discuss about the action to be taken against the others,” he said.