Mumbai residents, authorities clash over demolitions.
Though the Supreme Court deadline for the demolition of 96 illegal flats lapsed on Monday and bulldozers from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and police arrived on Tuesday morning to carry out the demolitions, residents shut the gates of the compound and fought to save their homes.
Hoping against hope that some kind of solution would come up, even appealing to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to issue an ordinance though he has decided not to intervene, residents are desperate to try all means to ensure their homes are not demolished. So far only 10 of the 96 illegal flats have been vacated.
They have been fighting a legal battle since 2005 when they first went to court for water supply and regularisation of their flats but were served demolition notices from the civic body for flats above the fifth floor which do not have the mandatory Occupation Certificate from the BMC.
Seven high-rises were constructed at the Campa Cola Compound between 1981 and 1989 and the builders had permission for only five floors but constructed much more. One of the buildings, Midtown, has 20 floors and another Orchid had 17. Now all floors above the fifth floor are to be demolished.
"For nearly 25 years, we have been paying BMC taxes and what was the civic body doing all these years?" asked angry residents.
"We want to honour the Supreme Court ruling but what is the hurry in demolishing what is legally and rightfully ours?"
As the civic squad brought its heavy demolition equipment to disconnect electricity and water supply, residents shut off the gates and stood against the entrance but finally allowed them in, without the bulldozers and equipment. In the commotion that followed, police detained many residents but later released them.
Union Minister and south Mumbai MP Milind Deora said, "It is a very categorical order by the Supreme Court. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has been in favour of supporting residents. He understands the humanitarian aspect involved. But he also knows that there are legalities involved."
A collusion between the builders and local BMC officials led to the flouting of norms and it is felt that they should not go unpunished, the official said. Meanwhile, there are diverse opinions on this issue and one of them is that if the government were to regularise Campa Cola, it would create a precedent for several illegal buildings that have mushroomed in Mumbai.
Other observers said that the affected residents of Campa Cola are not a large vote bank, unlike slum residents who are given alternate homes or rehabilitated elsewhere.
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