Residents give authorities 15 days to clear ground
Residents of Kurla, who have been fighting to save the iconic Gandhi Maidan, have given the civic body and the deputy collector 15 more days to clear the encroachments on the open space.
The authorities could not take any action on the encroachments because there was a case pending in the Bombay high court which has been disposed off now.
“We had written to the authorities to take necessary action on the encroachers by January 26 or else we will take to the streets,” said Vishwas Kamble, working president of Gaurishankar Krida Mandal.
“But after the collectorate requested us to give them more time, we have decided to give them 15 more days to demolish these structures,” he said.
On Sunday morning, the residents held a public meeting which was attended by more than 50 people, mostly senior citizens, at a municipal school near Gandhi Maidan to decide the next plan of action to save the open space.
After the meeting, the residents wrote to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the deputy collector (encroachments) asking them to shift the eligible people and clear the ground of all the encroachments.
“Earlier, due to the court order, the authorities did not take any action on the encroachers. But now there is no reason for them to keep quiet and do nothing,” said Kamble.
The 2,505 sqm-open space is one of the oldest in the city and has an historic importance. The first Samyukta Maharashtra movement meeting was organised here in the early 1960s.
There were about six structures in 1886 and due to the negligence of the authorities the number grew to 30. Over the past two decades, locals had been staging agitations. They had public meetings and also met the authorities and carried out signature campaigns to keep the movement going.
The deputy collector has sent notices to the owners of these structures and asked them to submit pre-1995 eligibility proofs.
“We will stage a dharna in the maidan. People have even volunteered to sit for an indefinite fast. The authorities will have to act this time. They cannot frustrate common people like this,” said Prabhu Desai, a member of the senior citizen group.