Vilas Kanade, head of the PMC anti-encroachment department, said, “According to state directives, we have already published a list of names in the media to invite public suggestions and objections regarding this drive. We have received objections from a few people and conducted hearings about it. Thereafter, we finalised around 750 structures to be demolished. A meeting has been called with all stakeholders on August 6 to draft a detailed plan of action.“ It will be attended by officials of the anti-encroachment department, land and estate department, building permission department and police officials.
In the month of Shravan, however, several religious festivals and ceremonies are celebrated aplenty, with an auspicious event almost every other day. Considered the holiest month of the year for certain Hindu sects, devotees are also encouraged to visit Shiva temples every day. Asked about such inept timing for a drive to target religious structures, Kanade said, “I am aware of the timing, but we have to carry out our duties. In our meeting, we will also discuss law and order issues.“
A senior official said on condition of anonymity, “The state is continuously following up with us on this matter, and the deadline for these demolitions was June 30. We have completed all necessary procedures like surveys, publishing the names of structures, appealing to people to raise their objections, etc. Now, we are almost in the final stages of the drive. The meeting was a bit delayed as we had to coordinate dates for several officials. As part of our agenda, we will also discuss religious events like Shravan, Dahi Handi, Ganpati and more over the next few months. Law and order issues will be considered. We know it is not a good time to conduct a drive, but we are just planning it. If police provide protection to us, we will be able to finish this.“
Asked about the drive, however, Pune commissioner of police Rashmi Shukla said, “I am not aware about any communication coming from PMC asking for bandobast during a demolition drive in the coming festive month.I will check.“ Another senior police officer added on condition of anonymity, “It is not possible to spare manpower during demolition drives if it coincides with our own festival bandobast. In fact, at the time, we ourselves have to ask for additional forces.“
Interestingly, during its survey, PMC also found a correlation between encroached roads, small religious structures, and auto rickshaw stands. Illegal religious structures were classified into two categories -Category A for old and famous religious structures that do not interfere with the city’s Development Plan (DP); and Category B for those that do. In May this year, the state issued a government resolution (GR) to all its municipal corporations to immediately implement this order.