IN a setback to Swachh Mumbai Abhiyaan, the Western Railways on Friday demolished a newly constructed toilet by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in Bandra (E). The railways’ action comes after a complaint filed by Omprakash Gupta, secretary to Rajya Sabha MP Hussain Dalwai, alleging unauthorised construction of toilet blocks by the civic body.
Civic officials said work on the toilet with 14 seats on AK Marg, below the skywalk in Bandra (E), was started in December 2015 and it was near completion. The civic body had spent Rs 8-9 lakh on it. “Activists had been demanding that a toilet be built there. Also, it was part of Swachh Mumbai Abhiyaan to make the city open-defecation free,” said a senior civic official.
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An official said no ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) was required from central authorities for construction of toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). “…beneficiary households will be targeted under this scheme irrespective of whether they live in authorised/unauthorised colonies or notified/non-notified slums,” states the letter signed by Shubha Thakur, director of SBM, in June 2015. “It may be read that NOC is not required for construction of toilets,” it states.
The letter comes after the secretary of the state urban development department wrote to the Ministry of Urban Development, seeking clarification about NOCs from central agencies.
Prashant Gaikwad, ward officer of H (East), said, “The action is completely wrong. Railway authorities went ahead with the demolition despite being told about the no-NOC requirement.”
Another official too slammed the railways. “What was the urgency? After all, a government body was constructing the toilet. The railways could have told us to seek permission. Why don’t they show the same promptness when it comes to other illegal constructions and encroachments,” the official said.
Gupta said the complaint was filed on behalf of Dalwai. “The toilet was being constructed on a footpath used by pedestrians. How could the civic body construct the toilet, that too without permission from the railways?” Gupta said. Ravinder Bhakar, chief PRO of Western Railways, said the construction was illegal.
“BMC had not sought any permission from us…,” he said.