A study centre being constructed for underprivileged kids in a municipal garden in Dhobi Talao has run into rough weather, with local residents alleging that the centre will encroach on the only open space in the area.
Local legislator Annie Shekhar has initiated the construction of the study centre in the Walter D’Souza garden, on Cinema Barrack Road. The total construction cost of the project is Rs6 lakh.
As a result, the garden, maintained by the Cinema Barrack Road Welfare group (CBWG), a local residents body, has now become the bone of contention between the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), CBWG and Shekhar.
Residents allege that despite having adopted the garden, the BMC did not consult them before allowing the construction of the 1,000 square feet centre. Shekhar said the residents were informed more than six months in advance.
Sunder Awatramani, president of the welfare group, said, “For the last 15 years, we have been in-charge of the garden and have adopted it. How can the MLA and the BMC collude and suddenly allow a study centre to come up? There are hardly any students who come here to study, so why does the centre have to come up here?”
Shekhar said the issue was becoming a class battle. “This is a debate between the haves and the have-nots. I had consulted the CBWG president around six months back and apprised him of the plan. The centre will be run by the BMC and will benefit hundreds of poor students. Can a handful of residents decide for these poor students?”
Residents also contended that the existing garden had enough study facilities for students. Shailesh Shah, a committee member, CBWG said, “The garden has benches, and a canopy where students study. Why do they have to ruin our garden?”
Nayana Kathpalia from Citispace said, “There is a circular which specifically disallows any construction on garden plots, if they are under adoption. However, the BMC has twisted rules here and allowed politicians to construct on an open space, which is wrong.” Sunil Dhamne, ward officer, A-ward refused to comment on this issue.