Shakti Mills,spread over a 25,067-sq m plot close to the Mahalaxmi railway station,has been a spooky,deserted and unsafe property for well over 35 years since it went under liquidation and was taken over by the Office of the Official Liquidator.
The derelict mill,which locals say has become a regular haunt for anti-social elements,neither falls under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Police,nor is the original owner,the Podar family,liable for securing it.
The company-Shree Shakti Mills Limited of the Podar family-was wound up more than 30 years ago. It is the Office of the Official Liquidator of the Bombay High Court that is responsible for the mill’s security until the court decides the property’s fate.
We have appointed an agency approved by the court to guard the premises. There must be four to five guards. From our point of view,there is no material inside the mill property to guard. It is completely empty, said a senior official from the liquidator’s office.
A police officer said that over the last few years,the area has become the haunt of anti social elements who indulge in drug consumption and gambling. Many criminal elements have been known to loiter there.
A synthetic yarn mill,Shakti Mills had gone under liquidation in 1978 when Mahindra Ugine Steel Company filed a petition in the Bombay High Court claiming dues. The court ordered the winding up of the firm on January 21,1981. A meeting had been called to discuss the action to be taken by the liquidator.
As of now,all the creditors have been settled,but the company matter is pending before the court. The central government has asked for the property to be handed over,but the major contributors are also putting a claim on the property,the official from the liquidator’s office said.
However,the official did not say who the contributors were.
Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said the Mumbai Police was identifying the owners of all such disputed and abandoned properties after Thursday’s gangrape.
We are going to keep checks to ensure that all such properties have proper warning boards saying trespassers will be prosecuted,so that people can make an educated decision, he said.
With the compound wall around Shakti Mills crumbling and razed in places,the liquidator’s office was recently in correspondence with the civic body to demolish the boundary walls. However,the contributors were concerned that the demolition will make the vacant property even more prone to encroachment.
We examined the structure from outside to see if it could be a hazard for passers-by. This matter about the surrounding walls being dilapidated has been in discussion for the past two years, said Keshav Ubale,assistant municipal commissioner of the G-South ward.
The liquidator’s office had received the report recommending demolition on Tuesday and had accepted it. The Bombay High Court was to hear the issue on August 22 but the case did not come up before the court.