Putting a spanner in the Shiv Sena’s plan to build a theme park on the Mahalaxmi race course land in Mumbai, the Maharashtra government has raised questions over the Shiv Sena-led civic body’s claim that it owned 30 per cent of the race course land.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan-led Urban Development (UD) department has directed the civic body to produce documentary evidence to validate its ownership claim. It has asked the BMC to provide property records for the plot over the past 100 years.
Situated in the heart of the city, the Mahalaxmi race course is spread over 8.55 lakh sq m open space. Of this, the BMC has claimed ownership for 2.58 lakh sq m, while conceding that the remaining 5.97 lakh sq m space was state government owned.
Holding the view that even the portion for which the BMC is claiming ownership was vested with the state government at some point in time, the Maharashtra government has begun digging into the plot’s history.
The ambiguity over the plot’s ownership stems from the fact that property card records show the entire land as owned by the erstwhile Bombay City Improvement Trust (BIT), which was created through an Act of Parliament on December 9,1898, following the Mumbai plague epidemic oif 1896. At that time all vacant land owned by the municipal corporation and the government were handed over to the body, which was eventually dissolved in 1926.
Sources however said that politics was at the centre of the government’s move. Following the expiry of lease extended to the Royal Western India Turf Club, which manages the race course, in May 2013, the Shiv Sena has been pushing for the civic body to take over the plot and turn in into a theme park, which is party president Uddhav Thackeray’s pet project.
While Thackeray himself has met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to push this project, the latter has so far indicated that he is not much impressed with this plan.
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The Maharashtra government, on the other hand, is weighing the option of utilising a portion of the open space for commercial heliport operations, even as most in the state bureaucracy and leadership favour the idea of renewal of the turf club’s lease with the introduction of more stringent conditions to make the plot more accessible to common citizens during non-racing days.
The say of the BMC in deciding the fate of the land will diminish if it can’t validate its ownership claim, a source said.
The civic administration has begun sifting through the property records. Besides the BMC records, a source said that even the records possessed by the Superintendent of Land Records would be accessed in this context.