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Jarring note on demolition

- Lata bats for complex in which she has two flats
Lata

Mumbai, June 10: Lata Mangeshkar has publicly sought support for residents of 102 illegal apartments that face demolition, without mentioning that she owns two of the flats.

“I have just one thing to say to the Maharashtra government about the Campa Cola Compound. If the homes are razed, thousands will be left homeless, including children and senior citizens,” the singer and Bharat Ratna tweeted last evening in Hindi.

“Already three people have lost their lives to the shock of losing their homes. Why should the residents be penalised for the mistakes committed by the builders?”

Social activist Medha Patkar welcomed Lata’s concern for the residents but felt the “homeless” claim was exaggerated as most of the flat owners were well-off and may have already arranged for alternative accommodation.

“We wish Lataji could use her social and political stature in favour of all those whose poverty compels them to live in so-called illegal houses,” Patkar said, referring to displaced slum dwellers protesting at Azad Maidan.

Lata had earlier sparked controversy by publicly threatening to leave Mumbai if a planned flyover were built near her home in Peddar Road. Her statement boosted fellow residents’ campaign against the now two-decade-old project and helped stall it.

Lata owns flats 801 and 802, which she has combined into one apartment, on the eighth floor of the Esha-Ekta Apartments, one of seven blocks of flats in the Campa Cola Compound. Her nephew lives there but the flat is locked most of the time as he travels a lot, residents said.

Raised between 1981 and 1989, each of the seven high-rises had permission to build only five floors but each flouted it. The Orchid Building, for instance, has 17 floors and the Midtown Apartments has 20.

Having resisted the civic body’s bulldozers for a quarter century, the 102 illegal flats now face demolition after the Supreme Court on June 3 rejected the residents’ review petition against an earlier verdict that went against them. The residents have moved a curative petition.

While every major political party has been supporting the residents on “humanitarian grounds”, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has said he cannot bypass the court order. Today, the civic body asked residents to vacate the illegal flats by June 12.

The residents had moved the court after the civic body, tired of sending one eviction notice after another, had sent bulldozers to the compound in November, hitting headlines.

The move was thwarted by the residents. A few of the families have said that some of their members have died of “tension” since then — a claim Lata’s tweet alludes to.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray today said the government should not punish the residents but act against the builders who constructed the illegal floors and the corrupt civic officials who turned a blind eye.

“I’m not taking a humanitarian view but a legal perspective of it,” he told reporters.

Pure Drinks, the manufacturer of Campa Cola, holds the lease to the plot. The company hired three builders in the ’80s including Yusuf Patel, a former gangster and aide to underworld don Haji Mastan.

Residents said Patel built the illegal flats and sold them cheaper than the rest.


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