Civic axe falls on car gallery - GM showroom run by Scion of political family razed

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By ASHISH SINHA in Patna
  • Published 6.03.06
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Patna, March 6: The ?unbelievable? happened here today as a bulldozer of the Patna Regional Development Authority (PRDA) razed the state?s only General Motors (GM) showroom run by the scion of a powerful political family of Bihar.

Pandey Motors, a swanky glass-exterior showroom near the Dak Bungalow crossing in the heart of the city, had come up recently in alleged violation of the PRDA?s building norms and even its construction plan had not been approved.

The PRDA had served a notice on the proprietor after lodging an FIR in the matter. On behalf of the showroom?s owner, Amar Pandey, an appeal had been filed with the PRDA but it was rejected. A 72-hour notice to dismantle the structure was issued to the landlord, which expired on Saturday.

Amar is the son of Raghunath Pandey, a late Congress leader from Muzaffarpur in north Bihar, who had branched out into several businesses, including transport.

The ownership of the prime land on which the showroom was built had also come under dispute as it originally belonged to the late Hasan Imam, a barrister who was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1918. A local firm, Ganpati Property Developers, claimed ownership of the land.

?There was no response to the 72-hour ultimatum issued by us to dismantle the structure. We did not demolish it yesterday as it was a Sunday. This was a totally illegal construction,? PRDA engineer Satyendra Singh, who was supervising the operation, said.

?There are several other such constructions in the city. We are dealing with each on a case-to-case basis. Do not be surprised if more structures are demolished in the near future,? he added.

The district administration had made elaborate arrangements for the demolition exercise with armed policemen deployed on the spot. A fire tender also waited by the side of the showroom.

A huge crowd of onlookers assembled at the spot and the prompt action of the authorities surprised many of them. ?This is indeed a new era. I cannot believe the demolition is happening in Bihar,? said one of them.

The showroom?s chief general manager, Pramod Sharma, ran from one corner to another, flashing the PRDA?s bylaws to the media contingent and arguing that they were not given the stipulated time before the demolition.

?The showroom cost us Rs 30 lakh. The glass exterior was imported. We could not find skilled workers in Patna to dismantle it. We had requisitioned some fitters from Jaipur for the work but they have demolished it in a hurry,? Sharma argued. The cars had already been shifted.

Rajeev Chaba, the president-cum-managing director of GM India, had inaugurated the showroom on January 30 with an impressive audio-visual presentation. Reminded that the showroom could be illegal, he had then denied any knowledge of the ?complications?.

The company has also handed over its Muzaffarpur franchisee to Amar Pandey and one of his employees said the showroom there would be inaugurated later this month.

?This demolition will make no difference. We will shift it to Exhibition Road where Pandeysaheb owns another building. Such things keep happening,? the employee said.