The gang-rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist at an abandoned mill land, where she had gone with a colleague for a photo shoot, has directed attention to the huge tracts of land that lie unattended in the city, especially mill land, and are often exploited for illegal and anti-social purposes.
The state government puts the onus of security at such properties on owners, who say they are doing their best to ensure that their properties are not being misused.
With construction taking place in most of the mill lands, there is adequate security in place, said the Mill Owners Association (MOA).
“Such incidents have never taken place on mill land. The Shakti Mill incident was an exception,” said VY Tamhane, secretary, MOA.
The problem, said Tamhane, is that Shakti Mill is no man’s l and. “The l and was once owned by Ganesh Narayan Podar, but today no one takes care of it,” he said.
Sources said Shakti Mills, which used to be one of the city’s leading textile mills, ran into losses a few decades ago after which the assets were liquidated.
Today, it is under the control of the court receiver.
Pravin Salunke, regional additional commissioner of police, said: “We have contacted the court receiver of the property and have issued a notice to him, asking him to ensure that there are warning boards on the property, cautioning people that it is abandoned and should not be entered.”
It’s not just this mill land.
Take the case of Swadeshi Mills between Sion and Kurla. Though there is security at the gate, slumdwellers freely use its premises.
Just last week, the court cleared the decks for the auction of this 48-acre land.
Another area of concern is the defunct godowns and warehouses on Mumbai Port Trust (MPT) land in south Mumbai, which are also misused.
Colaba corporator Annie Shekhar has written to the state government on this issue.
“There is a lot of illegal activity in the defunct warehouses on PD’mello Road. The police should crack down on them,” said Shekhar.
Officials with the National Real Estate Development Council said the state should intervene in such matters.
“There are many pieces of land with courts receivers and trusts, who hardly care for them. The state should erect fences, deploy security and charge the owners for it,” said Sunil Mantri, secretary, NAREDCO.
In 2011, the Mumbai Police mapped the risky spots where crimes against women were rampant.
These included forts, abandoned mills as well as beaches.
Even a special plan was outlined to make these spots safer for women.
The state government has now decided to give notices to private owners to guard the place and have contacted owners to put up boards warning action against those who trespass on the properties.