CITING THE increased security concerns across all Indian military stations following the Uri and Nagrota terrorist attacks last year in September and November, respectively, the highly sensitive Indian Navy Ship (INS) Angre has complained to various state departments about labourers engaged to restore the Town Hall adjacent to the naval establishment, littering its periphery.
Located behind the Town Hall, INS Angre is the seat of the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command. The road that connects INS Angre to the Gun Gate of Naval Dockyard is currently a dump yard with debris. Also, some labourers are staying there having constructed makeshift homes.
According to the official correspondence accessed by The Indian Express, the Navy has in a letter to the public works department (PWD) and the local municipal ward officer stated that the connecting road behind the Asiatic Society building “is very essential for use during an emergency as well as exigencies such as Fire/Terrorist attack, etc”.
“It was recently understood that the (restoration) work is now complete as reported in the newspapers recently…It is reiterated that the temporary godowns that are located adjacent to the perimeter security wall of INS Angre behind Asiatic Society Building is without NOC from the Indian Navy. It has been noticed recently that unauthorized personnel and their families are residing in the temporary structures. Location of these structures at existing positions is a grave security challenge as a probability of unauthorized personnel gaining clandestine access to the important installation without getting noticed cannot be ruled out…This issue, therefore, needs to be addressed ‘urgently’ as it is impacting the overall security of the Naval Establishment,” read the Navy’s communication dated April 17, 2017.
The dumpyard mainly has worn-out tables, chairs, cupboards, tubelights, bundles of metal scraps and wooden doors and heaps of wood shavings that, according to officials, belong to the PWD. The PWD has said it is currently calculating “the depreciation value” of disposed material as it plans to auction them. All the material have been removed from the central library of Town Hall before it was renovated.
“A shed to store some of the material has been made using the wall of the Navy, this will soon be removed. We are calculating the depreciation value of the material and then we will either auction it or dump it. There are no storage spaces available with the PWD to transfer the dismantled material. The encroachment by the labourers is not like the usual unauthorised settlements in the city. Three notices, including one last week from my office, have gone to the contractors (Laxmi Hericon Pvt Ltd) to shift the labourers and sort the dismantled material,” said Pradnya Walke, Executive Engineer, PWD.
Laxmi Hericon has claimed that the labourers’ accommodations were given “under the guidance” of the PWD. “No labourer currently resides with his family but only five-odd people stay to protect expensive construction material. For more than a year, we have been writing to PWD to remove the truckloads of the dismantled material but they are still waiting to auction the material,” said Shrinivas G Sulge, MD, Laxmi Hericon.
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has said it will “prosecute PWD for the nuisance”. “PWD is throwing its hands up and wants us to clean their mess. Two weeks ago, we sent them a notice to clean the identified debris and before the monsoon begins they will have to clean it up as the site could give rise to monsoon-related diseases,” said local ward officer Kiran Dighavkar, adding that PWD could not clear the dismantled items as it belonged to the state and was dumped on state-owned land.
According to officials, the issue was first raised by the Navy with the deputy collector of Colaba division in October 2015. Members of the Asiatic Library have raised concerns of a fire that could be started in the heaps of wood scrapping that might destroy some of the iconic books and documents stored on the ground floor of the library.
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