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BMC begins Campa action

- Drive to cut off basics to illegal flats

Mumbai, June 23: Civic officials started disconnecting water, gas and power lines to Campa Cola’s 102 illegal flats today, a day after the residents let them in following days of resistance.

Power connections were cut off to 55 of the flats, piped cooking gas to 14 and water to three in the complex located in Mumbai’s Worli area, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said.

It was not clear if the action covered the two apartments of Lata Mangeshkar, who had recently sought public support for the owners of the flats facing demolition.

Assistant municipal commissioner Keshav Ubale said 12 teams — from the Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST), Mahanagar Gas and the BMC — cut off the connections, adding the process would continue as the first step towards eviction.

Ubale said no demolition would be carried out at this stage and his teams would not be entering the illegal flats, spread across the compound’s seven buildings, some of which have up to 20 floors instead of the permitted five.

“We are not carrying out any demolition. So the flat keys are not required. We have been given access to the utilities for disconnection process and that’s fine. We will ensure that legal residents do not suffer any kind of inconvenience because of the disconnection process,” Ubale said.

The illegal flat owners had earlier refused to hand over the keys to their homes, insisting a final solution must be worked out first.

Yesterday, they had initially denied the civic officials access to the complex and relented only after promise of help from Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.

The dramatic change of stand last evening came after an MLA of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) spoke to them. Bala Nandgaonkar urged them to stop blocking civic squads and comply with the Supreme Court’s orders allowing the civic action.

Nandgaonkar first telephoned Chavan and later led a delegation of the residents to the chief minister.

“It was important that the blockade was lifted as the civic officials had a plan to use force if the resistance continued. I convinced the residents and the officials to hold their horses while the chief minister met the delegation. The chief minister assured them he would try to speak to the civic authorities and others and see if additional floor space index (ratio of plot size to the total area of a building) could be given to the society,” said Nandgaonkar. The MLA from nearby Sewri is among leaders of several parties to have backed the residents.

A curative petition filed by the residents is pending in the Supreme Court and is likely to be heard in July.