In a stand off that is likely to get bigger, hundreds of villagers assembled at Kamothe node in Navi Mumbai on Tuesday morning to protest local builders' attempts to source construction material from non-locals. Tuesday's rally is a second since Saturday, when a wall collapse killed 20 people in Taloja.
Led by former Member of Parliament DB Patil and legislator Vivek Patil, the protestors vowed to sit on a dharna but dispersed after the police arranged for the villagers to meet local builders on Wednesday.
For years, Kamothe has witnessed several clashes between builders and locals over the issue of supply of construction material. Builders say it is their right to source supplies from wherever they want to and allege threats by villagers. The local villagers say it is their right to supply construction material for construction on their land given to builders by City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO).
The Taloja wall collapse has brought the issue to the fore once again. While the builder blamed sub-standard materials supplied by the villagers for Saturday's accident, the villagers blame the godown's the architectural design and say the quality of material is just an excuse.
DB Patil said: "The project-affected people (PAP) have given their land for the development of the (Kamothe) node. They have been left with no livelihood and have not been rehabilitated. They just want to do legal business."
MLA Vivek Patil said: "This is merely seeking social justice. Builders do not realise that it is these very PAPs who have ensured the growth of the property market here." Refuting allegations that local villagers supply sub-standard material, he added: "If that was the case, several buildings would have collapsed in the area."
The builders refuse to give in to what amounts to arm-twisting tactics. "These protests are aimed at ensuring the highly profitable supply contracts are monopolised by a few people," said Prakash Baviskar, general secretary of Mansarovar Kamothe Builders and Developers Welfare Association (MKBDWA).
"The villagers decide who will get the supply contract at a particular site based on an auction in the village. A mob then assembles at the site and instructs the builder to take supplies only from a particular supplier who has paid a substantial amount to the village community," said Baviskar.