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Land allotment to Hema Malini draws ire

Demands for housing for the homeless and slum-dwellers grow louder; government faulted for tardy approach.

December 31, 2015 12:28 am | Updated September 02, 2016 11:47 am IST - Mumbai:

The place is not for slum-dwellers; it is meant for education &cultural activity, says the actor. File photo: Rohit Jain Paras

The place is not for slum-dwellers; it is meant for education &cultural activity, says the actor. File photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Following the Maharashtra government’s recent decision to allot land in Andheri’s Ambivli area to actor Hema Malini’s dance academy, demands for land allotments to house the homeless and slum-dwellers are growing louder.

On Wednesday, the Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action sent a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse and other officials asking the government to make land available for the rehabilitation of the homeless.

“In response to a petition by the Homeless Collective, the Mumbai Corporation and the State cited non-availability of land to rehabilitate the homeless. In this backdrop, on December 17, the BMC approved a proposal to build a cow shelter spread over one lakh square feet in the city. On Wednesday it was widely reported that Hema Malini was given land for her academy. We request the government to show the same drive in addressing the issue of the homeless,” the organisation’s letter to Mr. Fadnavis states. Mumbai needs 574 shelters and 57,000 still sleep on the city’s pavements, they said.

‘Reserved for institute’

Defending the State government’s decision, Mumbai suburban Collector Shekhar Channe said the 2000 square metre land in Ambivli allotted to the BJP MP was reserved for her institute after a change in the development plan. “The land was reserved for the institute. It was earlier RG (recreation ground), but in the Development Plan the plot was specifically reserved for the institute,” Mr. Channe told The Hindu . The authorities pointed out that the move was not out of turn as Section 37 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act made provisions for “minor modification” to the plan.

The Natyavihar Kala Kendra Charity Trust run by Ms. Hema Malini was granted the plot 19 years after she first applied for it. However, Opposition parties reacted to the government’s move citing the tardy approach to offering land for housing slum dwellers and mill workers.

Ms. Hema Malini said the hue and cry over the allotment was misplaced and baseless. “This place is not for slum-dwellers. It is meant for education and cultural activity. I will be maintaining a public garden and only a small portion of the plot will be used for the dance academy. I deserve to have this land. It is going to be a unique and beautiful cultural centre and Mumbai is happy about it. If you leave the land, it will be encroached upon,” she told The Hindu .

RTI activist Anil Galgali pointed out that the government ought to have issued a public notice ahead of the land allotment.

“The government should have announced the move through advertisements. Successive governments have been giving away land parcels to big personalities like filmmaker Subhash Ghai for his film school and former Union Minister Rajeev Shukla, which was later taken away.”

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