After the Kamala Mills Compound blaze which killed 14 people, the nexus between BMC babus and owners has been exposed once again. The Free Press Journal reporter Sweety Adimulam speaks to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, who has said that his team of officials and professional complainants are in connivance and they are ‘soft extortionists.’ He has now launched a battle to break the back of these soft extortionists.
You are saying that you want to break the back of the nexus between officials and professional complainants but how will you ensure that there won’t be any illegal work henceforth?
We are coming up with very clear guidelines to identify who is a real complainant and who is a professional complainant. For example, when people go through the professional complainants, they have no problem, what should I call? They are ‘soft extortionists’ and that is the whole battle I have started. Just like in the road and nullahs scam, I had a battle with the contractors v/s engineers. Now, my battle is with these ‘soft extortionists’ and certain category of corrupt officials. The problem is, if I go through you then everything is nice and if I don’t go through you then they complain.
You have started the demolition drive, after a tragedy. Could this drive not have begun earlier?
There is a connivance between some civic officials and a few professional complainants and because of this connivance, things were not surfacing, but now the whole nexus needs to be broken and it’s not just demolitions. Of course, demolition is one of the important actions, but now time has come to break the back of these civic officials and professional complainants and that is why we have taken up such a huge demolition drive in these two days.
You have said your officials are in a nexus with activists. Were you aware of this before? How is it possible that this hadn’t surfaced before?
The question is not about knowing or not knowing. Our own people are involved in such a big way and people who claim to be activists or professional complainants are involved, which is when the magnitude of problem surfaces. Now, for example the roads and the nullahs scam probe scares everybody. The connivance in roads and nullahs was happening for so many years. In fact, before I joined around Rs 3,000 crore was spent every year on roads, but what was the condition of roads? After the connivance and scam surfaced, this has got severely impacted. They spent Rs 10,000 crore only on roads, let us be honest.
So is the probe report pertaining to road scam is mounting pressure on you?
There is no pressure as of now. But yes, a lot of people are disturbed and you are clever enough to understand.
Abha Singh, the advocate, has accused you of granting permission to restaurants in one building of Kamala Mills Compound?
Absolutely, false and malicious, very clearly. Secondly, a lot of people are disturbed like I said earlier.
In case of Uphaar cinema in Delhi, the theatre owner was arrested. In this case, Govani owns the land, the breach is on his land. But only MRTP Act against him?
Every department has a law by which it operates. The law that we operate with is the MRTP. We cannot go by the law of Indian Penal Code, (IPC) which is operated by the police. IPC also allows hanging, so I cannot go around saying hang him. I don’t operate the IPC, I operate MRTP and MRTP is the most stringent law which I have.
The ease of doing business does not allow inspection of shops and establishments. In Mumbai where irregularities are mushrooming how helpful ease of doing business will be?
Number one, ease of doing business does not mean ease of doing illegal business. Ease of doing business is for people who want to do business legally. For people who do illegal business, beyond the rule, then law has to take over and we shall ask for compliance issues. So let us not confuse, they are two different issues. All the rules and the simplification is not for ease of doing illegal business. That is why the professional complainants lodge complaints under ease of doing business against those doing business legally. That is why I said they are disturbed. For example if under ease of doing business if a person gets permission then it disturbs lots of other people, because they do not get their cuts. Whereas if you go through them, they have no issues to raise.
Do you think it is a challenge tough for you?
It is, anytime. Whenever you disrupt the system, it is a tough challenge because it disturbs lots of people but I am coping with it. I coped in the road scam probe and similarly when I conducted the nullah de-silting scam or when began taking action against those mixing debris with garbage. The city garbage has dropped down to 9,000 to 7,000 tonnes and you think people were not disturbed? That was also a challenge but I did it.
Shiv Sena is planning to bring a no confidence motion against you is what we got to know?
I don’t want to comment on this.