After remaining unused for 10 years, a municipal market at Grant Road has become a garbage dump. The market with a built-up area of 53,776.496 sq feet at Khatavwadi near Grant Road railway station is today a mosquito hotbed, putting the lives of citizens around it at risk.
"Authorities don't seem to be bothered about the market. Apart from mosquito problem, the base of the structure is submerged in water most of the time. This can cause the pillars to corrode, leading to a possible collapse," says Gunvant Sheth, former corporator who has his shop next door.
Sheth claims he has brought the matter to the notice of the authorities several times. "There seems to be some confusion between the development planning department and the markets department. Last year, auctions were held for the ground floor of the ground plus four-structure and the BMC collected crores in the form of demand drafts from the bidders. But now they are returning the money."
In a city crunched for space, Sheth calls this market a 'criminal waste'.
The BMC had acquired the plot (CS-42) to set up a retail market before 1995. In 1995, the civic body passed a resolution mentioning that it had acquired the plot from a private party to fulfil its obligatory duty of creating a market and that it has acquired the plot from the owner at a price of Rs1,18,39,775.
Within a year, the plot was given to Akruti Builders for construction of the market. As per BMC guidelines, they built the structure in 30 per cent of the area and used the remaining portion to created flats for housing the existing tenants of the shanties razed during the process and a commercial tower.
Sheth informs after completion of the market, in 2005, the owner of the adjoining plot CS-41, Sohini Mohan Shah, filed a case in the city civil court alleging that the market building was right next to her wall and that a compulsory space of five feet from her compound had not been kept as per rules.
In 2005, the court ordered removal of the construction touching the market. However, the BMC moved the Bombay High Court and, by 2006 passed a resolution in accordance to acquire plot (CS-41) and another plot (CS-284) adjoining the market.
According to a local resident said, in 2006, Shah and the owner of the other plot, Rajendra Shelot, were directed by the court to submit a combined proposal to redevelop the plots CS-41 and CS-284 within 15 days. He said they have not submitted any proposal till date despite the BMC sending repeated warning letters to their architects. "The BMC, too has not acquired the plots so far," he said.
Devarchand Shah, holder of power of attorney for plot CS-41, denied having received any letter from the BMC. "We will redevelop our plots when we wish to do that," he said.
"The case regarding removal of the portion touching our plot is still pending in the court. However, we don't have a problem if the authorities start the market," said Shah.
In the meanwhile, the BMC tried to hand over the place to Central Cottage Industries Corporation of India Ltd on a lease of Rs17.48 crore for a period of 60 years. According to Sheth, the corporation rejected the proposal as the plaster and other work were yet to be completed.
Rajendra Bhosle, deputy municipal commissioner (markets) dismissed Sheth's claims. "The CCIC had requested the civic chief for the plot. In fact, they also wanted to set up handicrafts shops to which the BMC agreed," says Bhosle.
Bhosle added that since CCIC was finding it very expensive to pay the amount, it withdrew after three years. "The plot was given to CCIC because there were not enough bidders. The idea of a market is to set up shops. It may not be necessarily vegetable shops," said Bhosle.
Asked why the amount collected in the auction last year was returned, Bhosle said there allegations that the auction was not conducted properly. "Moreover, the structural audit also started, in which we realised that some departments of BMC needs a new office. So we decided to carry out a fresh auction later and temporarily house those departments first."
Manisha Mhaiskar, former additional municipal commissioner, informed that they were looking at a timeline of three to four months to shift offices of a few departments there. "This will be a temporary arrangement. Eventually it will house shops," she said.
According to a BMC official, there are 92 municipal markets in the city and 82 markets are under accommodation-reservation. It means they have been partly allotted to commercial project-affected persons and partly vacant.