The state government was caught unaware again on Wednesday, after hundreds of economically backward citizens gathered at Mantralaya to submit applications for a 400sqft house supposed to be provided at Rs54,000 in Powai as part of a housing scheme.
On Tuesday, the security and staff were harried after hundreds gathered at Mantralaya to submit applications for the same to the chief minister’s office, which had clarified immediately that there was no such scheme and the whole thing was a rumour.
However, on Wednesday, chaos reigned as hundreds poured in outside Mantralaya, some travelling from as far as Mira Road, to submit their applications. Additional police force was called in to stop the people from entering the state secretariat.
Dalit leader and trade unionist Milind Ranade alleged that the government was favouring big builder Niranjan Hiranandani “who was supposed to build affordable houses in Powai but, instead, built posh homes for the upper class”. Hiranandani, however, said he had handed over 15% of the flats in his project to the government as per an order of the Bombay high court. “The government can’t allot it to private persons like Prakash Ambedkar, only to government servants. Only the high court is authorised to amend its order.”
Activists of Bahujan Mahasangh, the outfit Prakash Ambedkar is the president of, had distributed the forms. Defending the move, Ambedkar told the media that the government was supposed to recover as many as 40,000 flats, which were to be built for the economically weaker sections, as the government had given land at a rate of 40 paise per acre and to the tune of 230 acres to Hiranandani Builders.
Ambedkar added that it’s people’s right to give applications and the state has to accept them.
Andheri resident Vishram Gyanrao, 65, said, “I came here thinking I too will get a house at a cheap price. We were distributed application forms by activists of the Bahujan Mahasangh.” Gyanrao had no clue that it was a rumour and there was no such scheme and that he had been taken for a ride.
Nasir Khan, a resident of Ghatkopar, was carrying a form which had an appeal to the chief minister that said that he be provided with a house under the Powai area development scheme. According to the form, under the scheme, the economically backward have to be given 400sqft houses and there were 3,000 such houses in stock. The form also highlighted the ruling party’s slogan “Congress ke haath Aam Aadmi ke saath”.
As crowds started increasing, the policemen present started pushing them back and even lathicharged some of them. The police also caught some of those who were distributing and collecting pamphlets.
The Marine Drive police said they have registered three offences with regard to this incident.