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Ambedkar memorial faces rule hurdle in Mumbai

Thursday, 27 December 2012 - 9:00am IST

Indu Mill is in coastal regulatory zone, making it difficult for govt to part with it.

Has the state government jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire? By giving its nod for a memorial of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Indu Mill in Dadar (west), the government may have warded off protests by Ambedkar followers, but in doing so, it could well have paved the way for more trouble on the legal front, say experts who feel that parting with 12.5acres of the mill land could set a wrong precedent.

That’s because the land is situated in a coastal regulatory zone – a stretch within 500mt of the coast which is governed by special construction laws. Rules have it that any plot in this zone reserved for ‘industrial’ purpose cannot be used only for specialised industrial activity.

This was why the government recently rejected two proposals to set up commercial establishments which do not fall in the ‘industrial’ category.

An urban law expert said it was on these grounds that a proposal to set up a five-star hotel in Dadar was rejected three years ago. “The hotel developer had paid Rs20 crore for additional construction area. The money was recently returned by the government,” said the expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “So now, how can the same government approve the memorial proposal?”

A retired government official, who shared the view, said though he favoured a memorial for Dr Ambedkar, things should be done right. “Why tweak norms? Why different laws for two entities? It can be challenged in court,” said the official.

However, if a plot is reserved for a certain purpose (in this case, ‘industrial’) it can be amended. A government notification released in the media this month stated that the ‘industry’ category for Indu Mill land had been changed to ‘memorial’.

However, government officials say the plan for a memorial cannot be reserved as it does not fit into any reservation norm. “Such reservations are for public utilities. A memorial is not a public utility,” said the official.

A senior municipal official said they were clueless about the government’s move. “It’s intended to garner votes and could prove controversial,” the official said. Manu Kumar Srivastava, principal secretary of the state urban development department which deals with such issues, refuted the experts’ claims as “baseless”. Asked to justify the government’s stand for a memorial, Srivastava did not reply to DNA’s text message.

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