The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies and the BJP on Friday locked horns after the Shiv Sena-led civic body’s Standing Committee turned down a proposal on beautification of the Bandra fort citing the absence of clearances from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Mumbai Maritime Board (MMB).
As per the proposal, backed by local BJP MLA Ashish Shelar, the civic body had planned to spend Rs 20.62 crore – Rs11.87 crore on construction activities, Rs 2.47 crore on garden work and the remaining sum on miscellaneous heads – for the beautification of the 17th-century structure and its precincts. It had also planned to develop a cycling track and urban forestry around the fort The work was proposed to be completed in one-and-a-half-year.
On Friday, Standing Committee member and local Congress corporator Asif Zakaria said several permissions pertaining to the project were pending and that there was no concrete plan on how the encroachment around the fort would be removed.
“The BMC wants beautification, but as of now, they do not have permissions from authorities, such as the archaeological department and maritime board. It is mentioned that the slum around the area will be removed, but there seems to be no mention of it in the proposal,” Zakaria said.
Citing that the development work, proposed under the project, fell on a part of the MMB property, the Congress corporator said, “Do we have their permissions? Further, why are we placing Basalt stones and spending such a high amount on lighting in that area? There should be a holistic policy on revamp of forts in Mumbai. Unless all these are answered, the proposal should not be passed, and (rather) should be rejected for now.”
Backing Zarakia’s claims, leader of the House and Sena corporator Vishakha Raut, said, “Why are we biased towards just one fort and why not also look at other forts which also need development? And unless the slum is removed by proper rehabilitation, there is no question of taking the proposal ahead.”
Claiming that the MVA allies had opposed the proposal over “political motives”, BJP corporators said beautification of the fort would attract more tourists. “If there are more permissions needed, we can take that in future, before beginning the work. Why should the proposal be rejected on those grounds?”
Makarand Narvekar, BJP corporator from Colaba, said.
BJP corporator Prabhakar Shinde pointed out that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray resides in Bandra and if the area around his residence is beautified, it would boost tourism in the city.
Standing Committee chairman Yashwant Jadhav said the issues of removing encroachment around the fort and resettlement need to be addressed first. “The BMC administration has mentioned that the state government is responsible in carrying out the work of various forts, so why in this case is the BMC doing the work, and what about the other forts (in the city),” he asked. After voting was called on the proposal, a majority of corporators rejected it.
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