As you enter Aarey Colony in Goregaon, a board says the ground-plus-one structure behind it is a gymnasium. The next line says the gymnasium was built using the MLA local area development funds of the Shiv Sena’s minister of state for housing, Ravindra Waikar.
The same gymnasium has now landed Waikar in trouble for alleged irregularities in its construction. Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam on Wednesday said Waikar had constructed an additional floor, 40 rooms and a compound wall illegally, encroaching upon 20 acres of land behind the gymnasium. He also said the gymnasium was run by an illegal organisation.
On Thursday, Nirupam demanded Waikar’s removal from the government.
“Waikar has not told us if his organisation is registered with the civic body or Matoshree (residence of Shiv Sena party chief Uddhav Thackeray). He has misused his powers. He must prove that the construction is legal or else he must resign. I am going to ask the chief minister to remove him from the government,” Nirupam said.
Waikar, who is not in India at present, said he will clear all doubts after he comes back to Mumbai. “I just underwent a bypass surgery and have gone out of the city for a break. I will be back in Mumbai on June 29 when I will prove how baseless the allegations are,” Waikar said.
The dairy development department, which is the local administrator for the 1200 ha colony, said that one floor of the gymnasium building and wall compound around it were constructed illegally. However, it said it did not know about the construction of 40 rooms and encroachment on 20 acres of land. “Nirupam alleged that I had grabbed 20 acres but it can be seen that there is a tabela (cow shed) and a road behind the gymnasium. Also, he made a baseless claim that the gymnasium has 40 rooms, which it does not have,” Waikar said. Nirupam said that the allegations made by him were based on complaints from locals. Government officials said that the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada), which built the gymnasium, was given permission to build just a single-floor gymnasium. However, Mhada, which comes under the housing department under Waikar, went ahead with the construction.