A day after comedian Kapil Sharma’s allegations of corruption against the civic body stirred up a storm on popular social media platform Twitter, several activists and political leaders filed complaints against him with various agencies for destruction of mangroves caused by illegal construction on Saturday.
Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam threatened to agitate against Sharma if he does not name people who sought a bribe from him. “If Sharma does not divulge names of those who sought money from him in the next 24 hours, I will myself lead a protest outside his house,” said the BJP MLA.
Sharma faced scathing remarks from many after the civic body’s records indicated that K West ward office had carried out a demolition of illegal extensions atop and adjacent to his bungalow in Versova. Officials claimed these extensions had destroyed a portion of mangroves that abut the bungalow.
Activists from various citizen groups demanded that action be taken against Sharma for destroying mangroves and for unauthorized construction on Coastal Regulatory Zones.
Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation has written to Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority, the mangrove cell among other agencies demanding that Sharma be arrested and has alleged that the draft Development Plan has left Sharma’s bungalow out of the CRZ buffer zone.
“The Revenue and Forest Department has imposed a prohibition on felling and destruction of mangroves in the state. Destruction of mangroves is a serious offence and he should have been arrested for it,” he said.
Objecting on similar grounds, Nikitesh Chaubal of Jagrut Mumbaikar, the activist who first brought the civic body’s notice to the illegal extensions of Sharma’s bungalow stated that owners of many other bungalows in the area have similarly destroyed mangroves. “From 2001 onwards, like Sharma, many bungalow owners have encroached upon creek land and have dumped garbage and destroyed the mangroves. I will continue to demand that the tehsildar look into the matter and initiate legal action against Sharma and all other bungalow owners guilty of the same offence,” he said.
Other social activists including Santosh Daundkar and advocate Abha Singh had filed a complaint with Versova police demanding that an FIR be registered and Sharma be arrested on various counts. “Apart from destroying the mangroves, Sharma is unwilling to reveal details of the official who asked for a bribe, which is also an offence. We want him to be arrested. If police do not cooperate, then we will take the matter to court,” said Daundkar.
Apart from activists, political parties like MNS have been riled up by claims Sharma made during an interview to a news channel in which he alleged that a member of the MNS had also asked him for a bribe. Several party members staged a protest at his residence last night at around midnight. Crying foul over Sharma’s claims, MNS leader Shalini Thackeray told The Indian Express, that despite destroying mangroves, no action was being taken against him since the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis had earlier tweeted in his favour.
Questioning the promptness of Fadnavis’ reaction in this case, Thackeray said, “We had demanded that he give a public apology for false allegations levelled against our party. Firstly, he does something illegal and a month after demolition he suddenly raises these baseless allegations to gain publicity. Action should be taken against him and we will deal with the matter in our own way,” she said.
On Friday morning, Sharma tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a post on Twitter making allegations of corruption against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
In his tweet, he claimed a civic official demanded a bribe of Rs 5 lakh for construction of his office. This had invited responses from Fadnavis and other politicos like Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and BJP Member of Parliament Kirit Somaiya, among various political leaders. The civic body had then issued a letter to Sharma, asking for details and the name of the official who demanded the bribe and promising a thorough investigation and appropriate action.
The officials of K West said that Sharma, who owned a single-storey bungalow in S V Patel Nagar, had illegally constructed an additional floor as well as an extension built around 16 feet into the creek behind the bungalow. Following an inspection, civic officials served a notice to stop the illegal work on July 16 and demolished illegal portions of the bungalow since they had not received any response from Sharma.
More than a day after Sharma took to Twitter, senior civic officials said that they had received no response from him. Despite several attempts, Sharma, yet again, could not be contacted for a response.