When one enters the Lokhandwala Link Road in the K West ward, ward chairman Changez Multani’s hoarding holds out the promise of effective governance. But the encroachments on the road and footpath make a mockery of these promises.
The swanky Lokhandwala falls within this ward’s ambit, which is from Oshiwara bridge to Milan Subway. It covers an area of 23.28sqkm, has a film studio, a multiplex, industrial estates and malls. The roads are wide but due to the commercial establishments traffic hobbles during peak-hour traffic.
Although the ward boasts of five police stations, no action has been taken against these structures. The HC in a 2006 encroachment case observed that according to section 67 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951, it is the duty of a police officer to regulate and control the traffic on the streets and prevent any obstruction.
When asked about the encroachments, Bharat Krishnaji Mhamunkar, a senior officer at DN Nagar police station, said, “One of these eating joints is run by the state government. Others have permission.”
Public spaces have been usurped by the commercial establishments and, if the shop owners are to be believed, the civic body has given its assent. Almost all the encroaching shops in the ward claim they have got the BMC’s permission.
“The cobbler shops have got the licences granted way back. We will only move them once the urban vendors policy is framed. However, other hawkers have violated the law,” Vishwas Shankarwar, ward officer, said. Multani admitted that one of the eateries on the pavement in DN Nagar has been given permission. And, a shop on a pavement in DN Nagar ostentatiously displays the licence number on its shutter.
When Multani was informed about a HC observation that the chief officer has the power to take action against the vendors, he said that it was the police’s job. The buck was passed further as he added that residents should guard footpaths near their buildings.
For locals, getting to highway a nightmare
For Lokhandwala residents, it is difficult to access the highway as they have no direct connection to it. Besides this, encroachments have affected the movement of traffic.
“It takes around 45 minutes to reach there during evening. From Lokhandwala, you have to go to the Juhu circle and from there you have to take the flyover to get on the highway. The other way is to go via Andheri station, but that’s always choc-a-bloc. Moreover, traffic moves at a snail’s pace here because of the encroachments and the metro project,” Avtansh Agarwal, a resident, said.
“Yes, we are aware of the problems faced by the residents of Lokhandwala. They do have difficulty in reaching the highway. However, a flyover is being constructed, which will pass the Infiniti Mall and connect to the highway through the Morya Estate. Also, there is a flyover coming up at the Milan subway. Once these constructions are complete, traffic movement will be smoother. Hawkers are also affecting the flow of traffic. We have raised this issue with the civic body,” RB Patil, traffic police inspector, DN Nagar, said.
Another resident, Sujay Shah, says that vehicles keep spilling on to the Goregaon-Juhu circle stretch from other connecting roads that crop up after every 50mts. “Accessing highway during the peak hours is mentally draining as one has to be aggressive and sharp to reach it in time. Besides this, encroachments has been a plaguing issue in the area but no one seems to be bothered to address it.”
Area: Lokhandwala Link Road
Encroachments: A garage near the Lotus petrol pump that has occupied half of the street to park the cars and a mobile phone shop on the pavement
Reaction: While a garage representative was evasive, a salesman of the mobile phone shop said, “We have got all the permissions from the municipal body. We are not violating any law.” Ward officer Vishwas Shankarwar said, “I will look into these violations. I am not aware of them.”
Area: DN Nagar
Encroachments: Two eateries on opposite footpaths
Reaction: “We have been doing business here for about a year. We have all the permissions,” said Praful Pradhan who operates the till at the joint right next to the DN Nagar police station. Padmana Pujari, who works at the opposite joint, said they have been operating for about 15 years.
Area: Advocate Paljibhai Boricha Chowk
Encroachment: Right opposite the high-end showrooms, a small shop that has spread its wares — footwear — on the pavement
Reaction: “We have the civic body’s clearance. This shop has been here since my forefathers’ time,” the shop owner said.