More allegations of wrongdoing were made on Monday against the Shiv Sena leader and minister of state for housing, Ravindra Waikar, again involving Aarey Colony.
The charge is that he has grabbed possession of two gardens — Shahid Tukaram Omble Udyan and Swatantraveer Savarkar Udyan — located at the entrance to Aarey Milk Colony from the Western Express Highway.
Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam alleged that Waikar and a private realty firm had plans to grab the land — the gardens are on half an acre each — by taking control of it in the name of upkeep.
In his defence, Waikar said that the gardens were not in his possession and were open to the citizens.
They were given to the private builder for upkeep as the dairy development department, under which the Aarey Colony comes, did not have sufficient manpower, he said.
“When we found that the dairy administration did not have enough staff, we requested the realtor to maintain the gardens and provide security for their upkeep. It does not mean that we have taken the gardens in our possession. Why should anyone have problem with free service,” Waikar asked.
“How can government-owned gardens be handed over to the private builder? Who gave them permission to do so? There is ulterior motive behind it. They want to encroach upon the big chunk of land,” Nirupam alleged.
Waikar had developed the gardens using his discretionary funds as the local legislator in 2013-14.
The Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority (Mhada), which built the gardens, was supposed to return them to the dairy development department for maintenance.
However, Mhada, which comes under the Waikar-led housing department, did not do this despite several reminders.
The story does not end here. A structure has been built in one of the two gardens, which is reportedly being used by Jitendra Valvi, local Sena corporator and close aide of Waikar, for his official work. Valvi refuted the claims saying, “It is a pump room, and no one uses it,” he said. However, local residents insist the structure actually serves as his office.
In the past, Waikar was accused of turning open spaces, allotted by the civic body to private parties for upkeep, into privileged clubs such as Matoshree and Supremo in Jogeshwari.
Nirupam on Monday lodged a complaint against Waikar with the State Lokayukta M L Tahaliyani on irregularities in the construction of a gymnasium in the Aarey Colony and encroachment on land.
“The Lokayukta has informed us that notices will be sent to Waikar, Mhada and Aarey Administration. It is expected that inquiry will be initiated next week,” he said.