The razing of 800 shanties in a major fire at Cuffe Parade’s Ambedkar Nagar slum last week has brought into focus the toothlessness of the city collector’s office in preventing encroachments as it has to depend on external agencies to protect its properties.
The shanties were illegally built on the collector’s land almost 15 years ago by cutting mangroves, but the authority has failed to take any action.
Now, even as some occupants prepare to rebuild their homes at the same location, the collector’s office is blaming the municipal corporation for failing to evict the encroachers as it does not possess machinery and manpower to carry out demolition drives.
“We survey our properties and inform the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to take action, but they evict according to their convenience, or whenever police protection is available,” said city collector CV Oak.
Even after the land is cleared through a demolition drive, the encroachers reappear on the plot, for which the district collector seeks help from the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA). “Once the encroachers are evicted, we hand over the plot to MMRDA to protect the area from encroachment,” said Oak.
Authorities concerned have however blamed the collector for lackadaisical attitude.
“It is ridiculous that the state government is unable to buy machinery to protect its own property. It is their responsibility to protect their land from encroachment, they cannot depend on us,” said a senior MMRDA official.
MMRDA has also written to the state government stating that it will henceforth not accept the responsibility of protect collector’s land.
It protects around eight such sites and spends about Rs6 crore annually.
The civic body too has slammed the collector.
“We cannot take action on each plot. The authorities who own them are solely responsible. The BMC has several other duties to carry out,” said a senior civic official.