With the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation set to go ahead with a road widening project at the busy Amar Mahal junction in Chembur, local shop owners whose tenements along the road are set to face the axe claimed that although they have been residing or operating businesses here for between 40 and 60 years, many are not being accommodated in alternative sites.
The civic body has undertaken the demolition to widen the MG road from Amar Mahal Junction towards Ghatkopar to 120 feet as the road line proposed in the city’s development plan.
“Three shops were demolished yesterday. They tried to break down a few houses as well but we managed to stop them,” said Girija Gupta, a resident. While demolition work was to continue on Wednesday, it was halted after the intervention of local Shiv Sena leaders.
The shop-owners and residents say they are not averse to the road project, but said there is lack of transparency in the process of offering rehabilitation. According to them, the municipal authorities have not given them a hearing and declared them undocumented without adequate scrutiny. “Our families have been living for over 60 years now. How can the BMC say that we don’t belong here?” Girija asked.
The residents found eligible for alternative accommodation have been offered accommodation at a building in Mahul, an option unacceptable. “Mahul does not have the facilities and the accessibility that Chembur has. As per rules, we should be resettled within 2 kms of our existing place. Mahul is 9 km away and is far from developed. What will happen to our livelihood and our children’s education?” said Rashmi Takale who lives in a tenement that will be demolished.
“While we were given prior notice about the demolition, the authorities did not explain what was lacking in the documentation we submitted,” said Ashok Kumar Mall, Secretary of the Small Merchants’ Association which represents the shops on the road. According to Mall, civic officials have offered areas such as Kandivali, Malad and Kanjurmarg for relocation of shops. “We have not been given a viable option yet,” he added.
The civic authorities have dismissed the residents’ and shop owners claims’ of their grievances going unheeded. Bharat Marathe, deputy municipal commissioner of the zone, said following the directions of municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta about the road widening, a survey was carried out of the affected structures.
“The structures’ eligibility and ineligibility was fixed. The residential structures have been offered alternative accommodation in Chembur and Mahul while the commercial structures have been offered sites in the western suburbs and other areas. We did not get a response for the alternative sites offered to commercial structures. So, we decided to go ahead with demolition only of those structures to which we have given allotment letter and the structures that are ineligible,” said Marathe.
He added that the local representatives on Wednesday raised the issue of students living in ineligible structures who are currently appearing for exams. “While we were ready to make necessary arrangements, it was brought to our notice that the entire family gets disturbed by the demolition. So, we decided to wait till exams are over.”