The state government’s assurance to the municipal corporation of regularising many of the illegal constructions in Pimpri Chinchwad is yet to be delivered and the municipal corporation is in a fix, for it has to act on a Bombay High Court directive to take action against 66,000 illegal structures across the twin industrial town, starting April. A bench of justice Abhay Oak and justice Anil Menon on Friday told the state government to provide security to officers who undertake the drive and on Saturday, PCMC administration submitted to the court that they razed 825 of the 66,000 illegal constructions. The court directive sent tremors among officers, politicians and residents but the woman who triggered the whole issue with a PIL against a school is not swayed either by “threats or allurement”.
The figure of 66,000 is staggering and would have remained hidden had it not been for 52-year-old Jayshree Suresh Dange, once an active Congress worker who these days wants to be called a “simple housewife.” It was Dange who filed a public interest litigation relating to the New Millennium School which she alleged was constructed on the river bed.
The issue of illegal constructions had cropped up during the tenures of former municipal commissioners Asheesh Sharma and Shrikar Pardeshi but PCMC had not touched any illegal construction during Sharma’s tenure. It had sought time from the high court. During the tenure of Pardeshi, his administration flattened hundreds of illegal constructions.
After the PIL was filed, the court ordered the demolition of the school. The school management — led by MLA Laxman Jagtap — made futile efforts to save it. The school was demolished.
It was during hearing of her PIL that PCMC submitted an affidavit in court that there were 66,000 illegal structures in Pimpri Chinchwad. “My complaint was only regarding the school on the river bed because of which Sangvi area witnessed flooding. But it was PCMC which submitted before the high court that there were 66,000 illegal structures,” she said.
Dange said she was happy the high court took a stern view. “I am in favour of allowing small violations to be regularised. But how can PCMC allow illegal constructions in the river bed, in green zone and on land reserved for civic amenities? These should be demolished and the high court order is in the right direction. Since the issue came to fore two years back, Dange had been receiving threats, and offered allurement. “I have been threatened several times, but I am a daughter of Satara and am not worried about any threats…I am fighting for what I believe is right. I have even been offered allurement for contesting elections. But I am not interested,” says Dange, whose husband Suresh Dange is a diabetologist. The then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had also offered her security, but she refused. “I have done nothing wrong and I am not afraid of standing up against wrong,” she says.
Despite her courage, no organisation in the twin town has come forward to felicitate her. “What if nobody honoured me? I will relentlessly continue to work for the city,” says Dange. Residents and activists in Pimpri Chinchwad have heard of her but have hardly seen her. She is rarely seen at functions.
Some say Dange had support of Shrirang Barne, MP and had filed the PIL at his behest. “Yes, it is true I was once a Congress member. But my PIL has nothing to do with Barne. In fact, I have set up several self help groups and conduct health camps with the help of my husband in Sangvi and drought-hit Maan taluka of Satara,” she says.
MNS leader Raju Salve said, “Jayshree Dange is pride of Pimpri Chinchwad.”