Holding their ground, defiant Campa Cola residents denied entry to Mumbai civic officials to cut off water and power supply to illegal flats for the second day on Saturday even as the authorities filed a police complaint against the occupants for obstructing them in discharge of their duties.
In a repeat of Friday’s failed exercise, officials from Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) descended upon the housing complex in plush Worli area of south Mumbai amid heavy security presence and made futile attempts to convince the residents to let them in. Women and girls with folded hands were seen pleading with MCGM officials from behind the grilled gates, locked and secured with bamboo poles, to understand the “humanitarian crisis” and go away.
A crowd of residents milled around within the compound where a havan was performed as chants of hymns and scent of burning joss sticks filled the air. The civic authorities, armed with the Supreme Court order for demolishing 96 illegally constructed flats in the housing complex, repeatedly pleaded with the residents to allow them to enter to cut off power, water and piped gas supplies to those units, but in vain. The Supreme Court had on June 3 dismissed the plea of the residents of illegal flats against an earlier order asking them to vacate their premises by May 31.
Following the SC order, MCGM had given notices to the owners of the illegal units to hand over the keys so that demolition could be carried out, but none did. The MCGM deadline for vacating the flats expired yesterday and, as part of their plan to force the occupants to vacate, the civic authorities have decided to cut off essential supplies like water and power to them.
“We have been requesting the residents to let us perform our duty but they are unrelenting. We are leaving for the day but will come back tomorrow and continue our efforts to convince them to let us do our job,” Deputy Municipal Commissioner Anand Waghralkar told reporters. Waghralkar said no force will be used against the residents and the civic body will approach the Supreme Court with a contempt petition if they refuse to cooperate.
“The residents are performing havans inside the compound and have taken an emotional approach to this operation. They should understand that all this will not work with government officials who have to perform their duty,” he said.
MCGM had last night filed a complaint against the residents accusing them of obstructing the authorities in discharge of their duties. They had submitted video recordings of Friday’s exercise when the occupants had thwarted their attempts to enter the compound to cut off essential supplies.
A case under IPC sections 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and various others related to wrongful restraint and unlawful assembly was registered against Campa Cola residents. “Once we have examined the footage provided to us by the authorities, we will take action,” an officer at Worli police station said.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Friday ruled out enacting a law to bail out the owners of illegal flats at Campa Cola housing society, saying “If illegal constructions are to be spared by a law, it would imply that other such irregular works too can be saved in a similar way.”