Demolition Drive : NMC eyes religious structures, spares encroachments by vendors

Nagpur: In view of growing resentment among citizens over demolition of illegal religious structures the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) appears to be sticking to its stand. Giving information to this regard in informed the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court on Wednesday that it is likely to raze all 1,521 illegal religious structures before November 30.

However NMC fails to come out clearly on the encroachments on footpaths and busy stretches of the city, by the vendors and other shopkeepers.

The submission was made by NMC commissioner Virendra Singh through counsel Sudhir Puranik by filing a comprehensive affidavit on its action plan, and providing details about their numbers in various zones. A division bench comprising justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Zaka Haq then adjourned the hearing till next week.

Earlier, two intervention pleas were filed by two temple trusts, contending that the list of illegal structures prepared by NMC was defective. However, the court refused to hear their pleas after they failed to produce sanction maps for their premises.

The government roped in senior counsel Sunil Manohar to plead its case on Wednesday. He appealed for reconsideration of HC’s July 5 orders, where it had directed deduction of Re1/day from the salaries of top officials, including chief secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, Urban Development Department (UDD) principal secretary, and revenue and home secretaries. However, the judges said it would be possible only after the civic body makes the city free of illegal structures.

The court was hearing a plea by Dr Gajanan Zade and Manohar Khorgade, through counsel Firdos Mirza, praying for removal of encroachments, including religious structures, pandals, stages, statues and others from roads, pavements and public utility spaces.

Singh informed that NMC had removed 54 structures earlier, and from June 22 to July 23, another 134 were removed, taking to 188 the number of structures demolished till date. Six of these were on PWD land.

The corporation also laid out an action plan to remove all such structures from the city. Some 331 of the structures are on roads and footpaths, while another 71 existed prior to May 1, 1960, and are not to be demolished in view of SC orders, while two roadside structures were pending before the corporation’s panel. Till July 23, 174 shrines had been removed and NMC planned to raze 25 per week. With 84 shrines yet to be demolished, the task would be completed within four weeks.

The civic body has also identified 294 illegal temples, mosques and other structures built on public utility (PU) lands and open spaces in its jurisdiction. Of them, 14 were existing before May 1, 1960, while 10 have raised objections before the NMC committee. Till July 23, NMC had removed eight while remaining 262 would be removed at the rate of five per day.

“All these 262 would be razed within 11 weeks, excluding the occasions of Ganesh and Navratri festivals. This action would start only after removal of structures on roadsides and footpaths. NMC is likely to removal all illegal/unauthorized structures by November 30,” Singh said.

The citizens have however cried foul over the ignorance of NMC authorities towards the vendors and shopkeepers who have gulped down entire footpath in busy areas.

“Look at the stretch from Lokmat Square to Variety Square in Sitabuldi. You would not find an inch of footpath there. When will NMC officials wake up to clean those encroachements,” asked an aggrieved citizen. Similar is the situation in almost all the areas be it Dharampeth, Shankar Nagar, Itwari, Mahal or Pratap Nagar.