THE SPECTRE OF DEMOLITIONS
ULHASNAGAR ROUND UP
By Narendra Panjwani
India is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Independence. But here in Sindhunagar, the Sindhis are beset with the fear of 'Demolition Hammer' looming over thousands of their dwellings. On 22nd August 2007, Hon. High Court lambasted the State Government and Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation Commissioner for not implementing its earlier order of 25th January 2006 and directed that all the unauthorized structures after 1st January 2005 be demolished. Following the court order the corporation has again started the demolition of many structures that have violated the FSI.
Twenty months back, when the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) started demolitions of 855 buildings there was a hue and cry all over. People resisted the move very strongly; thousands came on the streets burnt public property and stopped trains. The message was clear; don't punish us for the sins of builders, corrupt bureaucrats and politicians.
Nevertheless the commissioner enforcing the court order continued demolitions and Laxmi Ganga, Rahul Palace and Rani Maa Apartments were demolished. 21 families of Rani Maa started living in makeshift huts, living as Refugees in their own homeland. Nobody was there to look after them.
Some Sindhi NRIs who had come to attend the International Sindhi Sammelan at Mumbai that time visited Ulhasnagar and decided to rehabilitate three families of Rani Maa and Shri Ram Jawhrani & Shri Ranjit Butani completed the formalities and arranged rooms on rent for them on behalf of Global Sindhi Council.
Seeing their brothers in dire straits and expecting worse to come the leaders got into action. Ulhasnagar MLA Papu Kalani, Mayor Jyoti Kalani along with former Mayor Hardas Makhija and their team approached Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Shri Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, Deputy Chief Minister Shri R. R. Patil, Guardian Minister Shri Ganesh Naik and Urban Development Minister Shri Rajesh Tope. Sindhi MLCs Shri Kanayalal Gidwani, Shri Gumukhdas Jagwani and others raised the voice in the Legislative house and pressurized the Government to find a solution to the complicated issue. Vice Chairman Shri Vasant Davkhare too directed the Government to act fast in the matter.
The leadership convinced the Government that demolition on such large scale may lead to law and order problem and hardship to the residents and large number of them would be rendered homeless and it will be the second displacement of already displaced persons. Government was convinced with the above argument and issued Ordinance on 14th January 2006 to regularize unauthorized structures in Ulhasnagar, allowing FSI of four in the place of one, thus giving respite to innocent people.
On the basis of this ordinance, on 25th January 2006, Hon. High Court too, granted 18 months time to get all the unauthorized structures regularized. The designated authority appointed by the Government, issued notices to all the 855 buildings and also to other 1.33 lakh structures. Even those who had not constructed a single inch on their blocks and are in possession of approved plans got notices from the Corporation. This brought confusion in the minds of people of Sindhunagar resulting in a majority of them not applying for regularization within the stipulated time. As a result only 20,726 applications were received by the corporation for regularization. Of these only 1,457 unauthorized structures have been found eligible for regularization thus rendering the other structures liable for demolition.
Few months back the four party ruling group in Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation comprising Sai Balram, Jeevan Idnani (Lok Bharti), Mohan Sadhwani, Jairam Lulla (Cong), Ram Parwani (BJP) and Dhanajay Bodare (Shiv Sena) led a delegation to the Government urging for reduction in penalty so that the poor and middle class people could come forward and apply for regularization.
Sensing the hammer of demolition looming large over Sindhunagar, Papu Kalani MLA and Hardas Makhija lead the delegation to Guardian Minister Shri Ganesh Naik in the presence of UMC Commissioner Tahisildar, where Hardas Makhija blamed the Corporation for creating such a messy situation. According to Makhija, as originally it was the case of 855 buildings only, notices should have been issued to them, whereas corporation had wrongly issued notices against 1.33 lakh structures. They should be withdrawn. Secondly Ulhasnagar comes under Maharashtra Metropolitan Regulatory Development Authority (MMRDA) and as per MMRDA rules, staircase, balcony and passage is not to be considered while calculating FSI.
Demolition in Sindhunagar is continuing for last couple of weeks and there is loss of property; business has suffered and people are becoming homeless. So a Massiha is needed to save Sindhunagar from destruction, demolition and prevent the displacement of Sindhis. Who will he be?