|2007-09-20||Maharashtra Govt pulls UMC over illegal|
Expressing its displeasure over Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation's (UMC) failure to control the menace of unauthorised constructions in the corporation area, the Bombay High Court has embarrassed the Maharashtra government by asking it as to when it would be able to establish the rule of law in the satelite city.
Referring to an affidavit filed by the Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department saying that despite repeated directives the municipal administration did not act against illegal constructions, a division bench comprising Justices J N Patel and Amjad Sayyad remarked that the government had ample powers to control any situation and it should not express such helplessness in courts.
Assistant Government Pleader S R Nargolkar tried to impress the court, saying the state has assured the Corporation to provide whatever help required to take action against unauthourised constructions, including funds, machinery and manpower. But, he fairly conceded that controlling the upcoming illegal constructions was quite difficult, which prompted the court to direct the state government to file an affidavit as to when it would be in a position to establish the rule of law in Ulhasnagar.
The court also asked the state government to file, within eight weeks, a report of whatever action it has taken against the illegal constructions in the corporation area.
This direction came on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Hari Tanvani, a resident of Ulhasnagar.
|2007-09-09||Ulhasnagar hotelier takes DRI to court|
Eknath Tukaram Nerkar, a resident of Ulhasnagar has been going through nightmares ever since he returned to Mumbai from a trip to Hong Kong.
The hotelier was arrested for smuggling and put behind bars for a month by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) for allegedly possessing notified customs goods worth around Rs 42 lakhs.
The aggrieved hotelier has now moved the Mumbai High Court with a petition seeking to highlight the misdeeds of the DRI as well as the customs department.
According to the petition filed by Nerkar against the Union Government of India and 15 others, he arrived at the Sahar International Airport by an Air India flight, around 11.30 pm on February 11. The petitioner had brought in electronic goods worth around Rs 3.5 lakhs and was getting the customs clearance on them in the jurisdiction of the customs department of the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU).
At that time officers of the DRI took over from the AIU on the ground that they had specific information about ‘smuggling’ by Nerkar.
"Three DRI officials prepared fake panchnama claiming that I was trying to get out of the airport with smuggled goods, when they intercepted and took me into custody," charges Nerkar. The DRI claimed that the hotelier was carrying notified customs items wroth around Rs 42 lakhs.
A case of smuggling was registered against the hotelier under section 135 (1) (1) of the Customs Act 1962. The section is a non-bailable offence. Nerkar was produced before the Esplanade Court and the court remanded him to judicial custody.
The hotelier remained behind bars for 30 days before his offence was upheld to be one under section 135 (1) (2) of the Customs Act 1962, which is a bailable offence. The DRI also picked up one of his associates in connection with the same case but the accused got bail instantly.
Ever since his release Nerkar has been trying to prove that his case was the result of the misdeed by officials of the DRI.
He alleged that he was tackled in the customs arena of the airport by the AIU and that he had disclosed his belongings to the AIU at that time. Hence there was no question of him trying to smuggle out his belongings from the airport as alleged in the DRI’s FIR.
The petitioner has also contended that the articles brought by him from Hong Kong did not fall under the purview of the notified customs items. Only notified items attract criminal case under section 135 (1) (1). He has also contended before the High Court that the DRI falsely misrepresented the case before Esplanade Court thereby getting his jail custody for a month.
Nerkar has also disputed the value of his electronic items and authorized the DRI to sell the items and give him his dues after the deduction of customs duty. The DRI is yet to do so.
To prove the case fundamentally wrong, the petitioner has sought the video footage of the time when he was being tackled by the officers of the AIU under the Right to Information Act. He has also sought a copy of the incident report filed by the AIU at the time of handing over the case to the DRI.
The AIU has however denied him the information. He also complained about the entire incident to the Director General of Vigilance but the authority is also yet to respond to his complaints.
Seeing no way out the hotelier moved the Mumbai High Court. Advocate Nitin Pradhan is representing the petitioner in the HC.
|2007-09-09||Scam in Ulhasnagar regularisation process|
It can happen only in Ulhasnagar. The illegal buildings of this refugee township is once again in news, as not many of these structures have approached for regularization as per the court directive.
After hearing a PIL pertaining to the 865 illegal structures, the court had ordered for their demolition. However, based on an appeal by the civic body and the state government decision, the court permitted the regularization of these existing structures, but kept some conditions. The committee appointed to look into the regularization process has been allowed to regularise structures except those constructions made on water bodies such as nallahs and riverbeds, on the reserve sites and those obstructing the DP roads.
While only few illegal structures have so far approached for regularization, an interesting case has come out as per the allegations of Mohan Sadhwani, leader of the house in the UMC. According to him, the authorities have regulrarised a structure, which does not exist. The structure in the centre of controversy was demolished some three year ago, as per his allegations.
Sadhwani disclosed the name of the building, which got regularised, as Satnam Sakhi, near the Swami Shanti Prakash Ashram in Camp 5. The alleged vacant plot is seen in the picture. He says, "The building was demolished three years ago because it was illegal. However, now I have papers to prove that the authorities have regulraised this non-existent structure." The plot was reserved for an school according to his allegations.
He further alleges that several builders might have taken undue advantage of the current regularizing process. "I have sent a letter to the commissioner and the district collector with this proof. I have asked to conduct an inquiry into the matter," he says.
As a proof Sadhwani showed a receipt (R No 60457 and Book No 605, dated 19 August, 2007). As per this receipt Jaypal S Rohida and Jaydev S Ochani has paid the compounding charges and development charges to the UMC. He has demanded the authorities to scan the regulrarisation process. "It is to the level of a multi-crore scam. I am confident that many structures have been regularised by overruling the guidelines," he says.
When contacted Sameer Unhale, commissioner, UMC confirmed that he has received such a complaint. "I have received this complaint. However, the UMC cannot be held responsible if anything went wrong. A committee headed by the district collector is monitoring the regularisation process," he says.
|2007-09-06||I have done my job as an MLA|
n an exclusive tête-à-tête, Ulhasnagar MLA Pappu Kalani expresses his opinion on the menace of illegal structures and related issues with PRAKASH WATWANI
Ulhasnagar is back in news. The civic authorities resumed demolitions of illegal structures on last Wednesday, following harsh strictures from the Bombay High Court, a week before.
Unlike in the past, the implementing machinery in Ulhasnagar seems serious and sincere about the demolitions and it is no surprise that they have triggered unease amongst the locals. The demolitions were undertaken at three different places across the city in sector I, sector III and sector V on Wednesday. Here is the conversation with the four-time MLA from Ulhasnagar:
Ulhasnagar is back in news for demolitions of what are now called illegal structures. How do you look at it and what is your say in the matter?
Kalani: I would like to take you back by 18 months. Demolitions were being carried out in Delhi then. Ulhasnagar too was in news because of some Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in court, but our hectic efforts saw our state government coming out with an ordinance in favour of the residents of Ulhasnagar. The ordinance spared the axe on structures with the cut-off date being 1.1.2005, subject to payment of certain penalties and also certain other conditions within a time frame of 18 months. That was the time when our party was also in power in the civic body. But, it so happened that our then Opposition parties, (who now happen to be in power in Ulhasnagar civic body) misguided people and impressed upon them not to take the state government’s directives on penalties and other related conditions seriously saying that nothing would happen to their buildings. And these gullible people believed them and just sat over the matter all these months and hence when the case came up for hearing again recently (after an 18 months deadline), the court has taken a very serious view and what has followed is there for us to see. People were misled and now they are paying for it. I have done my job as an MLA.
But, was it conveyed widely and effectively that non-implementation of the conditions and non-payment of the penalties would antagonise the courts and government and bring tougher times on the local people and their illegal structures?
Kalani: Yes, enough was done. My wife Jyoti Kalani, who was the mayor of the Ulhasnagar civic
body then, held several meetings with the district collector. Advertisements were given in the media, appeals were issued from local television channels and other media from time to time, but yet there was enough of the opposition’s influence and people kept living with their own disbelief that nothing would happen to their illegal structures.
But, if you look at the history of these structures, people were not absolutely wrong if they were carried away with these ‘disbeliefs’. Over the years, so much has been written in the media, and the issue of unauthorised structures has been discussed on the assembly floor, but despite all this, the number of illegal structures has only increased. Hence people took the government’s orders very lightly this time too. Any comment?
Kalani: No, this time it was not so, but the sad part is that people failed to take it seriously without realising the gravity of the matter.
There is also an impression here that there is as much politics in construction as much in the demolition business. When in power in the civic body, politicians almost justify any structure
citing limited land space and the boom in population, saying that the only way to counter this is the vertical rise of structures. And look, when these very leaders are in Opposition, they start saying there are a lot of illegal structures in the city and want them demolished. Note the change in perspective.
Kalani: The problem is getting more serious now with outsiders coming in large numbers and indulging in illegal construction activities. If my
information is correct, of the population of eight lakh in Sector V - which is doing a roaring business
in the jeans industry - there about 1.5 lakh outsiders who have come here and are indulging in illegal constructions.
But the question is when we know that all this is happening here, why is it not nipped in the bud? Kalani: What can one do? We can only report against these things to the implementing machinery and it is for the machinery to act. It is all about
the nexus between bureaucrats and politicians.
Last week’s High Court orders prompted the demolition drive. The courts have also sought to know what action is taken against the erring officials. What is the current status?
Kalani: As far as I know, nothing has been done so far.
Your wife was the mayor till recently. What action was initiated during her stint?
Kalani: She had issued letters in this connection.
At one time, you had demanded that since the population of Ulhasnagar is on the rise and there is a lot of influx into the city because of ample job opportunities here, Ulhasnagar should get more land. And, you had demanded the adjoining four villages: Mharal, Varap, Kambha and Javsai. What is the status of that proposal?
Kalani: The villagers are not prepared for the annexation with Ulhasnagar for reasons best known to them.
In that case, there must be a need for additional FSI to extend structures vertically to accommodate the growing population.
Kalani: I think that may not be necessary in view of new plans that are being considered
by the Government of Maharashtra and pursued by the Thane guardian minister Ganesh Naik.
Some of the industries are becoming an environmental threat to Ulhasnagar and hence there is a move to shift all these industries from Ulhasnagar and accommodate them in the upcoming
MIDC near Haji Malang in the outskirts of Ulhasnagar. The land is cheaper there. And,
also there would not be any power cut or load-shedding, as MIDCs are exempted from these cuts… this should suit the industry. The project is being reviewed in every fortnight’s meeting
by all those concerned… the government and industry people. So much so, even some co-operative banks have evinced interest to extend loans, if required, to some of the industries to help set up units in this MIDC. If all is okay, the project should take off in four months. If industrial units are shifted out of Ulhasnagar, then in that case, land will fall vacant for development of residential structures. In which case, there may not be a need for additional FSI for the city of Ulhasnagar.
The people of Ulhasnagar look up to you. How would you take up their issues on the assembly floor or with the government?
Kalani: I will have to seek legal opinion of what can be done in the matter. I would like to repeat that I request people not to get carried away by misleading propaganda and that they must abide by the Court and government orders.
|2007-09-06||First-time Govinda battles for life|
A first-time Govinda, Lewis D’Souza, paid a heavy price for his enthusiasm. The 36-year-old resident of Ulhasnagar fell from the first tier of a human pyramid on Tuesday and is now battling for life in the intensive care unit of KEM Hospital in Parel.
Like any other Govinda, D’Souza too was clambering on others to form the human pyramid when his leg slipped and he fell backwards on his head. The fun and gaiety was lost on the Ulhasnagar family who rushed the unconscious Govinda to the nearby Ashirwad clinic. He was transferred to the tertiary-care KEM later in the evening.
"What can we blame, but fate? Till now, he would go play with the colony boys, but would only stand around in the background. This time he participated in the pyramid," said his elder brother Ronny, as he waited anxiously outside the hospital’s surgical ICU. He told TOI that D’Souza was young and unmarried and he hoped he would gain consciousness soon.
D’Souza was brought in with a grievous head injury. "He came in with a hematoma below the brain bone and a craniotomy was performed. He is still critical," said a KEM Hospital doctor.
D’Souza is not alone. Hospital corridors are dotted with Govindas in colourful vests tending to their injured soldiers. While most are battling broken bones, some head injuries and physical wounds have been reported. The civic-run KEM Hospital itself received 108 patients in all, of whom 11 are still admitted there. But even a head injury and rib fracture don’t deter many like Janardhan Baver (32) from Bal Gopal Mitr Mandal, for whom the injuries are an integral part of the festivities. "I have been playing Govinda for the past 15 years and will continue to do so," he said with a grin from his hospital bed.
City hospitals have now started seeing an inflow of injured Govindas from the far flung suburbs. State-run JJ hospital in Byculla admitted a youngster with grievous head injuries who was shifted there from Uran late on Wednesday night. Dean of Nair Hospital Sanjay Oak said five patients were still admitted to his hospital. "Most are bone fractures and head injuries. Nothing serious," he reassured.
The injuries, however, don’t dampen the team spirit of Govindas who have practised together for months—they now patiently wait with their teammates, lending a helping hand and financial aid.
|2007-09-02||Demolition Week Ahead For Ulhasnagar |
Once again the demolition hammer is ready to strike the illegal structures in Ulhasnagar. According to available information, the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC) will get serious about demolition of the illegal structures from this week.
The stipulated time for regularizing these structures have passed off, and according to officials, not many structure owners have got their buildings regularised. The High Court had given time till last week to get the structures regularised. 865 buildings were said to be illegal as per the case. Meanwhile, according to local residents, the difficult procedure and heavy penalties prevented them from approaching for regularization.
Says Sameer Unhale, commissioner of the UMC, ’’The demolition of illegal structures and filing cases against developers and architects of these illegal structures are an ongoing process. However, now we have planned to speed up the demolition process. We have prepared a stage-wise plan for it. First we are going to demolish the constructions that came after 1/1/2005. Simultaneously, we will also target structures, where cases have been finalised."
The sources within the UMC told DK Plus that the commissioner has released orders to all the departments of the corporation asking every concerned officer to file affidavits on the status of action against the unauthorised structures.
According to available information, out of the nearly 15,0017 unauthorised properties, only owners of 20,726 have submitted applications for regularizing. But of this 14,862 cases are from slums.
* First we are going to demolish the constructions that came after 1/1/2005. Simultaneously, we will also target structures, where cases have been finalised
|2007-09-01||HIV patient commits suicide|
Depressed about the ordeals of the long-term ailment, an AIDS patient committed suicide by jumping from his fifth floor residence at Ulhasnagar. Police said that Haresh Meherchandani (40), a resident of Navjeevan Tower, who lived in OT section of the city, had been suffering from AIDS for the last three months and was reportedly undergoing treatment.
However, his condition deteriorated rapidly in the last few weeks. Sources said that he was very depressed and did not even eat properly for the whole of last week. He also stopped taking regular medicines.
"Haresh was suffering from AIDS for the last three months, but he came to know just a month ago when he underwent a medical test at the J J hospital," informed PSI Tadvi, officer from the Central Police Station.
The 40-year old deceased was unmarried and lived with his mother and brother. "He was very depressed," informed Vinod, the deceased’s brother. He added that the relatives always tried their best to console Haresh but all in vain. Consequently, Haresh bolted the bedroom’s door from inside and ended his life by throwing himself from the balcony of his fifth floor residence.