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Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Encroachments? Where? RTI Act helps to know !! BMC has no clue about encroachments in S-ward,then how will it act against the culprits, wonders Bhandup resident Jagdish Gupta

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 28, 2006

Encroachments? Where?

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/nmirror/mmpaper.asp?sectid=2&articleid=627200623372729662720062334115

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BMC has no clue about encroachments in S-ward, then how will it act against the culprits, wonders Bhandup resident Jagdish Gupta

Aditi Sharma

The Right to Information (RTI) Act is a wonderful weapon for common citizens. But the information it reveals can often lead to a lot of hair-splitting.

Take the case of Bhandup resident Jagdish Gupta. His locality falls under S-ward of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Using the RTI Act, he sought information from the local ward office about some encroachments.

To his horror, the civic body claimed total ignorance about the encroachments.

When contacted, ward officer Harshad A Kale gave vague explanations for not taking action against the encroachers.

Of the many he has been pursuing, Gupta cited three cases.

CASE 1:

PLAYGROUND ON TANK ROAD

The BMC-owned playground bears large signboards declaring that it is being maintained by National Education Society (NES). The society runs a school and junior college in the vicinity and often holds school activities in the ground.

One of the rooms attached to the stadium on the playground has been home to the Kandera family for the past year-and-a-half. The family has built a huge shed right outside the room.

Rajan Kandera, head of the family of six, claims NES appointed him caretaker of the ground. “NES pays me Rs 2,000 per month for my work here,” he says.

Gupta says that the two boards and the caretaker give citizens the impression that the ground belongs to NES. “The impression that one gets is that one needs to seek permission from NES to conduct any activity on this ground. Hence, I wrote to the BMC asking about the status of the playground,” he says.

He was shocked to know that at the playground was handed over to NES to develop and maintain. “But, at present, the permission has been revoked,” stated the letter, dated February 2006, from the public information officer, S-ward.

After receiving the BMC’s reply, Gupta filed several complaints to get NES and the caretaker vacate the ground, but in vain.

Ward officer says:

“We have appointed two security guards to protect the playground in two shifts. They have been appointed by the building proposal department, which developed the ground. To the best of my knowledge, NES does not have permission to maintain the ground.”

When asked about the Kandera family occupying one of the rooms in the stadium, Harshad A Kale said, “I do not know about them.”

CASE 2:

GURUNANAK ENGLISH HIGH SCHOOL, STATION ROAD

When the school recently added another floor to its building, Gupta sought information about the same from the BMC, as he ‘was worried about the safety of the kids’.

“I was told that the school did not take permission before commencing construction,” he says.

“No permission is granted for carrying out any additions to the building,” stated the public information officer of S-ward.

Ward officer says:
“I am not aware of this case at all,” says Harshad A Kale.

CASE 3:

KRISHNA SAGAR HOTEL, LBS MARG

The hotel has a mezzanine floor and an extension nearly touching the extremely busy road. The hotel seems to be doing brisk business throughout the day.

As per BMC’s records, the mezzanine floor and the extension are illegal. Its reply is interesting.

“I was told that the encroachments had been demolished twice, but the fact is that you can see the structures even today,” says Gupta.

After receiving the BMC’s reply, Gupta wrote several letters to the ward office to initiate action against the hotel. But the letters did not evoke any response.
 
Ward officer says:

“I will have to verify this case, as in the last few days we have been busy due to landslides and wall collapses. I am already short-staffed. This is the largest ward with a large slum population,” says Harshad A Kale.

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