On Tuesday, Sameer Vartak, a Vasai-based environmental activist, staged a hunger strike demanding that action be taken against illegal encroachments on mangrove land in Bhuigaon.
The Palghar police and the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) are locked in a tussle over unpaid bills amounting to Rs 2.69 crore. The corporation had allegedly not paid the police for bandobast duties, after which the police stopped sending their personnel for corporation-led activities. The matter came to light after a Vasai-based environmental activist staged a hunger strike against the corporation for not taking on demolition activities despite there being a High Court order.
On Tuesday, Sameer Vartak, a Vasai-based environmental activist, staged a hunger strike demanding that action be taken against illegal encroachments on mangrove land in Bhuigaon. “Based on a writ petition filed by (NGO) Vanashakti in 2013, the Bombay High Court ordered that all illegal encroachments in Bhuigaon should be demolished in 2018. However, despite me sitting on a hunger strike in February 2019 the municipal corporation and district administration have just given us dates and no action has been taken,” Vartak said.
When Vartak inquired about the delay in demolition from the district police, he was told that the police is unable to send their personnel for bandobast, as the VVCMC had not paid the previous bills. “SP Gaurav Singh himself told me that they are not sending personnel as the VVCMC has to pay them Rs 2.69 crore for previous years’ duty,” Vartak said. He added, “If the VVCMC has money to organise marathons and other events, I am sure they can find money to pay their bills.”
The Palghar police confirmed the pending bills. “Yes, around Rs 2 crore has been pending and we have sent them reminders regarding the same. We have been cooperating with the corporation,” a senior officer from Palghar police said. He added, “We have tried not to stop any work if deemed urgent. Special branch officials would know more about the deployment.” Special branch officials, however, refused to share details of the last four years police deployments for the VVCMC.
The municipal corporation has to pay a nominal fee whenever it calls the police for bandobast for their demolition and other law and order activities. The VVCMC has not paid the bill for the past five years, sources said.
VVCMC commissioner Baliram Pawar confirmed the pending bill. “Yes, we have to pay them around Rs 2.69 crore. We have asked for detailed bills with specifics and individual charges, so that we can tally the amount with our records. As of now, we have not been calling the police for bandobast, as we are working on the previous pending bills. We are working on resolving this issue together,” Pawar said.
On Wednesday, Palghar collector Kailash Shinde reached out to Vartak and his colleagues on a hunger strike. Shinde assured the protesters that the demolition work would be finished by December 10.
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