Friday’s inferno left hundreds of slum dwellers homeless at Garib Nagar, adjacent to the Bandra railway station. There is no clarity as to who owns this stretch of land.
Civic authorities say it belongs to the Western Railway; the WR has, however, denied this claim. The Railways officials claim that the plot close to the Bandra railway station, where slums were gutted by fire, was leased to the fisheries department 40 years ago. “According to our records, this plot was given to the fisheries department nearly 40 years ago and doesn’t come under the Railways,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, Western Railway.
He said only a small patch of land, next to these slums, which was unaffected by fire, belongs to the WR.
In its panchnama, the collector’s office said more than 800 slums were gutted in Friday’s fire but it didn’t outline any plan for slum rehabilitation in Garib Nagar. Nirmalkumar Deshmukh, collector said: “Entire Garib Nagar stands on the Railways land but the railways have never taken any steps to protect their property.”
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and fire department too claim that this plot belongs to the Railways and it was their responsibility to keep a tab on the slums. Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar said: “Land belongs to the Railways and it is their responsibility to keep a check on the slums on their property.”
The chief fire official Uday Tatkare said, “It belongs to the Railways and they should have checked growth of slums in this area.” “We would be happy to take this stretch of land, but only if the state government and collector give it in writing that it belongs to us,” said a senior railway official.
The Railways had put up a notice a few months back, asking slum dwellers at Bandra (E) to evacuate from this area. They had also mentioned names of those living illegally. Railway officials now deny that those whose names were mentioned in that notice and those living in slums that got burnt were the same.