| Policemen outside the Sara-Sahara complex. (Fotocorp)
Mumbai, July 25: Mumbai police do not have the manpower ' or is it the mettle' ' to tackle Dawood Ibrahim.
For the third time this month, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation today deferred the proposed demolition of an illegal shopping complex constructed by the underworld don and his men on the ground that the police could not provide adequate security.
The demolition squad headed by V.M. Pallamwar of Ward A had scheduled the two-day demolition of seven illegal structures in the Sara-Sahara shopping complex at Crawford Market in south Mumbai on July 7. It was put off to July 12 and again to July 25 after the police said they could not provide security.
“The apex court order on May 12 had asked us to carry out demolitions by July 11. That deadline has also lapsed. We are ready with our demolition plan, but the police cannot provide us the required security cover,” Pallamwar said.
Officials said the corporation had put together a demolition squad of 300 men and had planned to work 15 hours a day for two days.
But joint commissioner (law and order) Arup Patnaik said nearly 200 policemen would be required to protect the squad and prevent violence, and such a large number could not be spared in view of the July 11 train blasts.
The corporation has been trying to demolish this complex of over 200 shops since the crime branch found evidence in 2002 that it was financed by Dawood’s brother Iqbal Kaskar with underworld money.
The crime branch had intercepted phone conversations between Abdul Rehman and Kaskar, then based in Dubai, that suggested Dawood had pumped his money into the complex built with the connivance of municipal officials.
Investigations showed that the prime land on which the 20,000-square feet complex was built belonged to the central public works department.
Kaskar was extradited from Dubai and arrested under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in February 2003.
The corporation ordered an inquiry into the scam and found 11 of its officials guilty. In August 2003, it sent notices to the shopkeepers at Sara-Sahara to vacate the premises.
Claiming they were unaware the complex was built without necessary civic approvals, the shopkeepers approached court and got an injunction. The corporation appealed in Bombay High Court, which ordered the demolition in February 2005. The shopkeepers went to the Supreme Court in May 2005, but this May, it upheld the high court order.
Municipal officials said they were also awaiting an order from the MCOCA court, where an accused had filed an appeal demanding a stay on the demolition on the ground that the structures formed vital evidence in the trial.
Shopkeepers claim they were unaware that such a plush complex would be illegal and are afraid the demolition will hit their businesses. Some are preparing to relocate their shops. “Where were these people seven years ago when this was built' Hundreds are employed here,” said a shopkeeper, Jayanti Purohit.
This is the second property owned by Dawood and his family the corporation has decided to demolish. In the mid-90s, its official G.R. Khairnar had launched a crackdown on the don’s benami properties and demolished Mehjabeen Mansion, a multi-storeyed building in Bhendi Bazaar.