Mumbai underground: Hot wheels

The public relations overdrive launched by politicians across the nation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections seems to have affected the state's bureaucrats as well.

| Mumbai | Published: May 12, 2014 3:38:47 am


The fear of Mumbai Police Crime Branch may make many a criminal in the city jittery. However there is one thing that makes even Mumbai’s vaunted cops nervous. With increasing criminals buying high-end cars, Mumbai’s cops are increasingly apprehensive of taking these cars into custody along with their owners. The latest example is Anurag Garg, the architect allegedly involved in the murder of Navi Mumbai builder Sunilkumar Lohariya. Crime Branch officers have attached almost all of Garg’s assets except his 11 cars. When asked about the delay in seizing the cars, an officer said, “Four-five of those are imported and we don’t want to store them along with the other cars in the Commissionerate compound. If even one of them gets a scratch on them, Garg will go to court and we will have one more headache to deal with!” Fortunately for the officer, Garg surrendered a fews days later.


The public relations overdrive launched by politicians across the nation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections seems to have affected the state’s bureaucrats as well. Apparently inspired by the tom-tomming that many political leaders have been doing, the state forest department went on a publicity overdrive to highlight the lavish praise being bestowed on them by the Director General (Forests). Copies of the letter were promptly distributed to journalists which lauded the state forest department for filling up all vacancies in the last three years by recruiting large number of forest guards, forest watchers and forest range officers. “With the result, field staff in Maharashtra is young, disciplined, motivated and alert. Another action taken by the state was that they have recruited unemployed youths for Special Tiger Protection Force from villages relocated from Protected Ares and villages which are in the buffer zone of PAs. Other states may consider emulating Maharashtra model suitably,” read the letter, which has given the forest department many reasons to boast.


The Mumbai Police Crime Branch’s Property Cell was in the news last year for busting a widespread betting racket during the last season of the Indian Premier League. Everyone who was expecting a repeat this year was in for a surprise as there was no such move from the Cell this time. Recently, a Property Cell officer was asked, “Sir, are you not keeping an eye on the IPL this time?” The officer promptly replied, “Oh, closely. I watch every match like the true cricket fan I am.”


The inclusion of many public structures in the list of heritage structures has left many BMC employees flummoxed. The BMC garden cell officials have still not been able to get over the inclusion of Bandra Talav on the list of heritage structures. The Bandra Talav’s initial makeover plan proposed by the BMC in 2009 at a cost of Rs 33 crore included a pathway, boating facilities, laser light show for 30 minutes, aquarium, and a musical fountain. However, thanks to its declaration as a Grade II heritage site, the civic body had to scrap its grand plans and retain most of the Talav’s original character, although civic architects had worked on the previous plan for more than two years, said an official.  “Suddenly, one fine day, it was recommended as a heritage structure. Although there is a time to raise objections to including a structure in the heritage list, Bandra Talav being a public structure and us being civic officials, we could not object to its inclusion in the list. It would have been sad to see the architect’s  efforts wasted,” added the official.


The ‘bond’ between builders and politicians in Mumbai is no secret. However, a recent exchange between a builder and a politician showed that there seems to be no love lost between the two sides. In an informal meeting with senior corporators in the BMC, builders from the Gujarati community grumbled about the increasing tax regime on construction that has begun affecting their profit margin adversely. “Why does there have to double taxes for everything? If they (the government) is going to levy tax on everything, obviously property prices in Mumbai will rise. Still everyone only blames the builder instead of the government,” said a disgruntled developer. However BJP Corporator Manoj Kotak put forth the politicians’ side, claiming that builders seemed to have brought this day upon themselves. “When Vilasrao Deshmukh was chief minister, builders plundered the government and the city. This got worse when Ashok Chavan was CM. Finally it got to a point where the government also turned into businessmen to earn money off of builder’s profits. So you can’t blame them,” Kotak alleged.

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