The Shiv Sena’s minister of state for housing, Ravindra Waikar, may land in trouble over allegations of land grab in the city’s green lung, Aarey Milk Colony.
Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam on Wednesday alleged that Waikar had grabbed 20 acres in the Aarey Colony on the pretext of building a gymnasium for tribals living there. Waikar refuted the allegations and said Nirupam had a habit of making accusations without any substance.
The allegations against Waikar come even as his party has been opposing the BJP-led state government’s move to hand over land at Aarey Colony for a Metro car depot.
At a press conference, Nirupam said the Shiv Samarth Shikshan Prasarak Sanstha, which operates the gymnasium, was run by Waikar’s wife and relatives, and that it was not registered with the Public Trust Registration Office and had not been audited for three years. He claimed the Sanstha had built a compound wall around 20 acres behind the gymnasium.
Waikar runs Matoshree Club and Supremo Sports Club in Kandivili, also built on BMC playgrounds under the earlier scheme for adoption of open spaces.
Waikar is the third minister, but the first from the Sena, in the Devendra Fadnavis government to face charges of irregular land deals after Eknath Khadse, who has since resigned as revenue minister, and water resources minister Girish Mahajan.
“Nirupam must prove I have encroached on the land. The gymnasium is built as per the rules of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) and the sanstha is operational since 1995,” Waikar said.
“The documents we have accessed show that the local administration spotted illegal construction on 350 metres of land. Also, the sanstha built a two-storeyed building when permission was given for just one. In addition, Waikar has grabbed 20 acres behind the gymnasium by building a wall compound,” Nirupam said.
Nirupam said Waikar has constructed a sauna bath and 40 rooms in the gymnasium in order to develop it as a club like his Matoshree Club. “It is a clear-cut case of misuse of power, conflict of interest and fraud. I am going to write a letter to the chief minister demanding Waiker be removed from the post of minister. There should be an FIR filed against Waikar,” Nirupam, adding that a complaint will be made to the Lokayukta as well.
However, Waikar said the MHADA had built the gymnasium for local tribals using his MLA local area development funds and the process started in 2012, when he was just a legislator. Waikar represents the Jogeshwari East constituency, which covers major parts of the colony. The minister claimed the sauna was just one of the facilities at the gymnasium since it was supposed to be used by anyone in Mumbai along with tribals. The gymnasium has been open to the public since 2014.
Waikar claimed that all clubs under his control were built by acquiring the land as per the rules. “I have all proof to show that they are developed legally,” Waikar said.