Mumbra alone had 218 of the over 400 illegal constructions in Corporation limits

In the last winter session of the Maharashtra Assembly in 2012, Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik submitted information on the mushrooming illegal construction in Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), demanding an enquiry against Municipal Commissioner R.A. Rajeev.

Mr. Sarnaik, who represents Thane in the Assembly, accessed information from TMC on illegal buildings through the Right to Information Act in December 2012, which indicated the scale of the problem. For the nine divisions under the corporation last year, 505 illegal buildings were demolished, there was action against 829 (which does not mean they were demolished), and in December, 2012 alone, 104 illegal constructions were detected. The year round 146 buildings were given notices, and 53 cases of violations were filed under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act and 83 cases registered under the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Act.

Mumbra alone had 218 of the over 400 illegal structures in the Corporation limits, Mr. Sarnaik said. His demand for an enquiry against Mr. Rajeev was scuttled. While the TMC says illegal buildings were demolished or given stop work notices, in reality nothing happens. The buildings were rarely brought down and people continued to live there.

Two officials suspended

While the Opposition ranted against the builder-politician nexus in the Assembly on Friday, forcing suspensions of two officials, even the judiciary has been ignored in Thane. According to the government submission in the Bombay High Court, the entire Thane district has around 4.90 lakh illegal structures, which are buildings, chawls, shops and slums. Thane city, which has a population of about 25 lakh, reportedly has 2 lakh such illegal structures. No action has been taken against them, in spite of the fact that the court ordered demolition of all the illegal structures in 2010. The government immediately nullified the court order by declaring that pre-2001 structures would not be demolished. Mr. Rajeev on Saturday admitted that 90 per cent buildings in Mumbra are were illegal. “We are doing what we can,” he said.

The State government in January 2005 issued a government resolution (GR), asking eight municipal corporations to use ‘Remote Sensing Technology’ to spot illegal structures, encroachments that result due to increasing urbanization.

The municipal corporations include the TMC which according to the GR was supposed to set up such a mechanism by February 28, 2005. Neither the TMC nor any of the other corporations have begun their work till today, revealed RTI activist and general secretary of Dharmarajya Paksha Raju Phanse.

As per the GR the satellite images of area under the jurisdiction of a Municipal Corporation should be analysed every six months, which will help in identifying the change in land use and proper action can be taken. The ward officer has been authorised by this GR to take actions against the illegal structures. In the backdrop of the building collapse in Mumbra area in TMC, the activists are demanding that the GR be implemented immediately.