The land occupied by Mumbai’s shrines — 422.5 acres — may now be vulnerable to land sharks.
The BMC’s decision to scrap the category for all religious places means they may not be protected from commercial exploitation.
Religious trusts own large parcels of land, the sale of which has always been a controversial issue.
It is believed that by not marking them in Mumbai’s development plan, the BMC has withdrawn the protection that these lands previously had.
Samajwadi Party group leader in the BMC Rais Shaikh said the move would sound the death knell for places of worship. “These lands were protected from commercial exploitation because the DP had reserved them only for religious purposes. By marking them to be in the commercial-residential zone, the DP has exposed them to being exploited rather easily.”
Echoing Shaikh’s views, Biju Augustine, a member of the technical committee of the Siro Malabar Church, said such a move would be useful for trusts looking to parcel off their land. “Most of religious properties are controlled by charitable trusts. Some of them have often attempted to corner land parcels and sell them off. We fear that the de-reservation will just facilitate such vested interests.”
Calling the BMC’s move mischievous, Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi, general secretary, All India Ulema Council, said, “The intent is very clear. The builder-driven plan wants us to open up our lands and allow commercial construction. If we want our mosques to be repaired, they may not even allow it citing that the DP has not even marked the usage.”
However, VK Phatak, chief advisor on the DP to the BMC, said the use of the land can remain the same. “There doesn’t have to be any change in the usage of land. Even in the residential-commercial zone, land can be continued to be used for religious purposes.”