BMC denies permission to rebuild burnt Old Timber Market shops in Nagpada | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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BMC denies permission to rebuild burnt Old Timber Market shops in Nagpada

May 30, 2024 08:38 AM IST

Notices had been pasted by the civic body on last Wednesday and this Monday, warning them of demolition if they tried to rebuild their shops

STRAP: Shopkeepers, done out of their source of income, plan to move court

Mumbai, India – May 29, 2024: A demolished Timber Market, at Nagpada, in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India – May 29, 2024: A demolished Timber Market, at Nagpada, in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

MUMBAI: Four months after a Level Four fire raged for 16 hours and decimated most shops in Lakda Bazar, the old timber market in Grant Road, the shopkeepers have yet not been able to resuscitate their shops. Adding to the blow, the BMC on Tuesday demolished the iron scaffolding the shopkeepers put up some days ago. Notices had been pasted by the civic body on last Wednesday and this Monday, warning them of demolition if they tried to rebuild their shops.

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“Our source of income has been blocked for four months,” said Naresh Prajapati, whose grandfather rented his plot in 1931. Prajapati is the secretary of the Mohammedi Old Timber Market No 2 Association, which has 36 shops under it that buy wood from old mills and buildings and repurpose and sell it. The labourers working in the shops typically slept in them.

On Wednesday, a day after the BMC demolished the iron scaffolding the shopkeepers had erected for their corrugated iron (CI) shops, iron bars lay broken in the rubble on the site. Wood was stored in some corners.

“Now that the monsoon is close, we will no longer be able to store even the little wood we have in the open,” said Nitin Kumar, another shopkeeper. “All these months of running around for BMC permissions yielded no results, so we tried to rebuild our shops around two weeks ago.”

As soon as the shopkeepers started, however, the BMC delivered a stop work notice on May 22. While the association claimed that it complied and replied to the notice, another notice informing them of the demolition was pasted on the gate to the market on Monday. The demolition was carried out within 24 hours. “The BMC did not even give us time to respond,” said the shopkeepers.

“On January 30, four days after the fire, we wrote to the assistant commissioner of D ward, Sharad Ughade, asking for permission to repair our shops,” said Kumar. “We got a reply very late, asking us to go to the building and factory department. But we are not building permanent structures so why should we approach them? We kept being told to go from one department to another.”

The association then went to the deputy municipal commissioner of Zone 1, Sangeeta Hansale, in March and assistant municipal commissioner (city) Ashwini Joshi. The association claimed the meeting was positive, but there was no progress.

When contacted by HT, Joshi said the plot of land the market was on was marked as a recreational ground in the development plan. “Thus, they cannot have commercial constructions on it,” she said. “We were not demolishing their shops before, but we cannot give permission for construction.”

To this, the association members said they had met municipal commissioner Bhushan Gagrani days before the demolition, and he assured them that he would start the process of changing the reservation. However, Joshi objected to this, saying that changing the reservation of a recreational ground could not happen so easily.

“The Parsi trust, which is the landowner, is also opposing the shops and has written to us, asking us not to give them permission,” she said. “They say that the shopkeepers have transferred the shops so the original rent receipts do not match the current owners.” Joshi added that the 20-odd shops at the market border—which were not entirely destroyed in the fire and are still functioning—had also been served notices and would be razed.

In the face of the hard-to-get permissions, the shopkeepers suspect that they are being kept away from the plot due to pressure from a builder. “The owner of this land, the Parsi trust, refused to accept our rents this year,” said Dayaram Lodhi, expressing doubts about the cause and spread of the fire. “Informally we have been told that a builder is in the process of buying the land. A day or two after the fire, the builder’s staff came and measured the plot.”

Left with no choice, the association now plans to approach the high court against the demolitions of its galas.

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