BMC demolishes 103 illegal religious structures in the city

Mumbai : Mumbaikars can soon expect ‘encroachment-free’ roads and footpaths as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is razing down the hundreds of shrines in the city. These shrines were constructed after 2009 and are illegal.

According to the official data provided by BMC’s Removal of Encroachment Department (RED), at least 103 illegally constructed shrines have been demolished since last three months. These illegal shrines belong to all the religions. The BMC has carried out special drives to raze down such structures.

Going by the provided data, the BMC had in December last year identified a total of 482 such illegal shrines. These are the shrines that are constructed over public properties like roads, footpaths, public grounds etc.

The BMC will now have to demolish 379 more such structures before November 2017, the deadline that has been set by the Bombay High Court for this task. Sources from RED said that the civic chief Ajoy Mehta has directed all the Wards to complete demolition work, prior to the deadline.

Interestingly, the M-west ward (Chembur) alone has 22 such illegal shrines. The Ward officials under Executive Engineer Shambhaji Ghag have demolished 12 structures in last week and are set to demolish the remaining ones by the next week.

If sources from BMC are to be believed, the civic body’s drives are delayed because of the Mumbai Police as they are busy in other ‘bandobast’ works. “We have to inform the police in advance and we accordingly send our applications seeking protection. But a majority of the times it has happened that the police either rejects the application or keeps it pending. We then have to postpone our drives,” a source said.

Interestingly, the BMC’s ‘prompt’ action has come only after being pulled up by the Bombay High Court on several occasions.

These ‘special drives’ are pursuant to the October 2016 judgment passed by a division bench presided over by Justice Abay Oka and Justice Amjad Sayed.

In its ruling, the bench had specifically said that the rights guaranteed to practise one’s religion cannot be allowed at any and every place. The bench had also said that it would not ‘tolerate’ illegal structures of any religion as no religion encourages worshipping in illegally constructed shrines.

“These illegal structures constructed as shrines violate the provisions of the Constitution of India. These shrines are against the fundamental rights of Citizens, as they have a Right to good and reasonable roads and construction of these shrines blocks the roads,” Justice Oka had said.

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