When Mumbai University (MU) permitted the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to use a portion of its land at Kalina for thoroughfare in 1998, it may not have known that it would end up losing over 7,000 square metres of its land to encroachment, an issue it has been battling till date. The matter came to light once again after a senior senate member, Prof Ambadas Mohite, raised the issue in a meeting on March 21.
In reply, university authorities said the encroachment continues to exist on university land and the university is still writing about the same to the district collector and other state government officials. “In a city like Mumbai, land is prime thing and losing over 7000 square metres due to negligence is a shame. The university must make efforts to get back its land,” said Mohite.
Spread across 243.23 acres, the Kalina campus was split into two when the MMRDA acquired around 11,92,112 square metres of the university’s land to build the 90-feet Vakola Link Road in 1998. While the major part of the 243.23 acres is the Kalina campus, which houses various departments, four hostels and even the vice-chancellors residence, the other part, measuring 7,162 square metres towards BKC near Bharat Nagar slums, got separated. The road built by MMRDA runs between these two.
Between 1998 and 2004, active encroachment activities began on the land near Bharat Nagar slums. Experts value the encroached land around Rs 350 crore. Although there is a board proclaiming the university’s ownership of the land, it is unguarded since 2004-05. This led to the property becoming an easy ‘grab’ for the slum mafia in and around Bharat Nagar. Over 650 shanties, inhabited by 5,000-6,000 people, came up on the land.
The university administration moved the Bombay High court in 2007, seeking help in the matter. After a long legal battle, the university finally managed to get almost 80 per cent encroachments vacated in 2008 with the help of BMC and police. But the encroachers came back.
“There is so much that can be done on the land that is encroached. If the university fails to get the land back in time, it will lose it to the land mafia,” said Mohite. In a reply to Mohite, MU said: “The demolition was conducted on November 26, 2008, the day the terrorist attacks happened in Mumbai. The BMC and police managed to raze almost 80 per cent of the encroachment. However, by night, everything had changed. Police force assigned at the spot had to be sent at Hotel Taj and Hotel Trident. Slum lords established shanties again.”
A recent letter by the university administration to the district collector was dated March 15, 2014. “We are taking all the necessary steps to remove the encroachments. The administration has, till date, done everything that could have been done, including legal action. We are still pursuing the matter,” said Naresh Chandra, university pro-vice chancellor.