Mumbai: Twenty-one years on, BMC reclaims 1.6-acre Cuffe Parade plot
Twenty-one years after the BMC's licence agreement with a private trust to develop a 1.6-acre recreation ground in the prime Cuffe Parade ended, the civic body finally took possession of the plot on January 27 morning. Civic officials, accompanied by local residents and municipal councillors, bulldozed the wall around the plot. Residents have called it a major victory and are hopeful the civic body will develop and maintain it.
Officials said the trust had kept the space in its possession though after its agreement ended back in 1999. The trust's managing trustee, though, said the matter was sub judice in the Bombay High Court and the BMC had arbitrarily taken possession of the plot by not following due process of the law.
Maria Chico, a local, said she used to take her son to the park almost three decades ago and back then it was maintained well. "On January 27, when I accompanied BMC officials who were to take possession of the plot, I was shocked to find only wild grass everywhere. I am happy the garden will be revived to its former glory. I have fond memories of a beautiful pond within the space too."
Harshita Narwekar, local corporator who was present on January 27, said a notice was served to Suraksha Trust on January 24. According to the notice, a copy of which is with TOI, a licence agreement between the trust and the BMC dated September 30, 1994, expired five years later in 1999. Terms of the agreement stated that Suraksha Trust must develop the ground within six months from the date the BMC handed it over. The BMC notice has alleged the trust failed to do so, depriving residents of a recreation facility. "Even though the licence period has expired, the trustees are holding out the said ground illegally and unauthorised," stated the notice.
Chanda Jadhav, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, A Ward, said the trust was informed on January 27 at 10.30 am that the BMC would take possession of the ground. Corporator Makrand Narwekar said the trust repeatedly got a court stay to avoid handing it over.
When contacted, Jaikumar Jain, Chairman and Managing Trustee, Suraksha Trust, said, "The BMC was restrained from taking action even by the city civil court without following the due process of law. They then approached the High Court where the matter is sub judice. Despite that, they have taken possession of the garden today. They have clearly taken law into their hands. The BMC did not provide water and electricity. How was it possible to maintain the space in such a situation? I had repeatedly requested them to inform me how they wanted me to maintain the space as well. I will approach the court now."
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