Monday's incident highlights the gravity of the problem of illegal structures along the Vasai-Virar belt.
More than one lakh such structures dot this belt, according to the NGO, Harit Vasai Saurakshan Samiti, which filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against these illegal structures in 2007. “The whole place is in shambles as such structures have mushroomed. The quality of life has deteriorated,” said the Samiti's advocate, Uday Warunjikar.
On Monday, the buildings demolished had come up very close to the railway tracks in Nalasopara (east).
Last year, the Bombay High Court came down heavily on the issue of illegal structures and ordered civic authorities to take stringent action against them.
After issuing notices, the civic body is now undertaking a demolition drive.
Residents blame the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation for allowing so many illegal constructions to crop up. “Over the past decade, the civic body turned a blind eye as illegal structures mushroomed in this belt,” said resident Sadanand Rawle. “It was clear cut nexus between the builders, politicians and authorities,” he said, adding that such constructions have systematically destroyed the area's green cover. “There was absolutely no planning and structures were coming up everywhere.”
Officials complain that they face many hurdles. “Politicians interfere in our work and provoke people against us,” said a senior official who does not wish to be named. “We are often denied police protection and so have to postpone demolition.”
In May, when chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad visited Nalasopara, he had criticised the presence of illegal structures in the belt, and since then demolition has been in full swing.