Mumbai pub tragedy: FIRs lodged, ‘look-out notices’ issued, demolition drive on

Mumbai Fire (IANS)

Mumbai, Dec 30 (IANS) Cracking the whip in wake of the blaze in Kamala Mills Compound which left 14 dead and 55 injured, the Mumbai police on Saturday lodged three new FIRs against various pub owners and issued a lookout notice for the absconders while the BMC began demolishing illegal constructions, officials said.

Police have also set up five teams to trace the owners of 1Above pub, Hitesh Sanghvi, his brother Jigar Sanghvi and partner Abhijit Manka, and Yug Pathak, a co-owner of of The Mojos Bistro, who is the son of a retired IPS officer.

Simultaneously, police have issued “look-out notice” to prevent them from leaving the country, while police teams have gone to Pune and other cities to hunt for them, the official said.

Additionally, following a complaint by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) under the Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act (MRTP), police have lodged a FIR against the owner of Kamala Mills, Ramesh Govani and others who are still not traceable.

In an action-packed day, teams of the BMC demolition squads swooped down on scores of hotels, restaurants, pubs, eateries and other places where people are likely to converge for New Year Eve parties with hammers and crowbars to raze illegal structures.

In what is billed as the single biggest demolitions in a day, several illegal constructions were razed at major locations within the Kamala Mills Compound and the adjacent Raghuvanshi Mills and Phoenix Mills complexes, and other places in the city and suburbs.

According to a BMC official, who declined to be named, Saturday’s mega-demolition drive covered 314 locations across Mumbai, but largely concentrated in Lower Parel-Mahalaxmi areas.

The demolition squads targeted illegal extensions to premises, decorative arches and metal grilles inside or outside, double-triple or revolving doors, raised entrances/exits, ornamental fixtures and fittings, massive flower pots or plants, unauthorized temporary roofs, walls, partitions, any external/internal obstacles to free movements, etc, which could prove to be a safety hazard in case of any emergency like Friday’s fire.

The erstwhile 50-plus textile mills which used to churn out lakhs of metres of cotton fabrics daily, went silent after the Great Bombay Textile strike of 1982. Spread across prime real estate of more than 500 acres in south-central Mumbai, they have now been transformed into glittering corporate, media, communications, glamour and eating hubs, besides some of the tallest and most expensive residential and commercial towers in the vicinity.

BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta has already set up 25 teams which will inspect implementation of safety norms at all hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, malls in the sprawling Kamala Mills Compound and other surrounding areas in Lower Parel.

In fact, the preliminary inspection by the BMC on Friday detected an unauthorized partition wall and two rooms, besides an illegal plastic roof supported with bamboos which was reduced to ashes in the early Friday morning blaze.

Amidst a public uproar with the fire incident figuring in Parliament on Friday, the BMC suspended five officials including a fire brigade officer, hours after the conflagration.

Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam on Saturday however termed the ongoing demolitions as “a mere eyewash” in view of the public anger and demanded the suspension of the BMC commissioner for the lapses over which he is presiding.

Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrisha Vikhe-Patil, who demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe, called for removal of Mehta and holding him responsible for Friday’s tragedy.

Incidentally, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activist Mangesh Kashalkar, a social activist Ilyas Ejaz Khan and RTI activist Anil Galgali said they have lodged several complaints against the illegalities perpetrated in the commercial establishments in Lower Parel-Mahalaxmi area, but the BMC officials ignored them.

Mumbai police went into high security mode on Saturday with stringent bandobast, catching all those violating traffic rules, carrying random checking of vehicles, setting up roadblocks, detecting inebriated drivers and other offences in preparation for the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Sunday.