Mumbai: On Sunday, visuals of Shiv Sena secretary Milind Narvekar demolishing his own sea-side bungalow at Murud village in Ratnagiri went viral with the BJP alleging that environmental violations had taken place in the area.
The allegation by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya against Narvekar, a close aide of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, is the latest salvo by the party that has been targeting senior Sena leaders on their landholdings in the Konkan belt.
The Konkan belt is the Shiv Sena’s stronghold after Mumbai and where the BJP is trying to get a foothold. A pattern appears to be emerging in the opposition party’s game-plan in this region — get political tips regarding possible illegal constructions and supposed dodgy land deals, raise a public outcry, file Right to Information (RTI) requests with local authorities, flag RTI documents to level allegations, and demand that the central government ‘take action’.
The allegations began in November last year with an attack on CM Thackeray and Shiv Sena leader Ravindra Waikar. The BJP claimed they had purchased land in an Alibaug village but had “concealed” the information in their election affidavits. This January, Somaiya filed a complaint with the State Election Commission, and, in February, took the information to the investigating arm of the Income Tax office seeking an inquiry.
Then, in May, Somaiya alleged that Maharashtra’s Transport Minister Anil Parab was the owner of Sai Resort in Murud village, and that illegal constructions on his property during the lockdown had violated Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules. In June, Parab clarified he was not the owner and had sold his property in Murud village.
On the ‘violations’ trail
Vinay Natu, president of the BJP’s Ratnagiri unit, told ThePrint that a complaint against alleged CRZ violations in Sai Resorts by a local Shiv Sena worker had led the BJP on the trail.
“He filed a complaint and got some information under RTI. Subsequently, Kirit Somaiya ji got to know about this and took this issue forward, and once he started looking into it, many more cases of CRZ violations in this belt came to light. One of them was Narvekar’s,” said Natu, who claimed he had inspected Sai Resorts and Narvekar’s bungalow along with Somaiya.
“We have heaps of papers of information on the cases through RTI,” Somaiya said. “In the case of Parab and Narvekar, we complained to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and got central teams to visit both the spots. The team visited Sai Resorts in June and Narvekar’s property in July and in both cases confirmed that the construction was illegal,” he added.
“There was pressure on Narvekar from the chief minister’s office to demolish the construction. But just because stolen goods were returned, it does not absolve the thief of the crime. The state government must take action for unauthorised construction and violation of CRZ norms.”
Neither Narvekar nor Parab responded to ThePrint’s calls and text messages till the time of publication of this report.
Milind Narvekar’s bungalow
According to Somaiya, Narvekar, who has been Thackeray’s personal assistant since his early days in politics, has been building a bungalow on his land measuring 72 gunthas, roughly two acres, which falls under CRZ-III.
The 2011 CRZ notification says CRZ-III includes coastal zone in rural areas and adds that in case of seafront properties, area up to 200 metres from the high-tide line on the landward side will be declared a No-Development Zone.
According to the notification, no construction will be permitted here except repairs of existing authorised structures without exceeding the existing Floor Space Index. Certain construction between 200 to 500 metres of the high-tide line is permitted, but with permissions from the relevant authorities.
Somaiya claimed Narvekar did not take any permission for his bungalow construction and did not even approach the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA).
“There was already an old bungalow on the land. Narvekar was rebuilding it with some additional area. The construction has been intermittently going on since the past 4-5 years,” a functionary of the Murud gram panchayat told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.
“The permission that he had sought from the gram panchayat was for house repairs. He did not seek any permission to build the additional area. But, now he has himself demolished it yesterday, so the matter is over.”
Somaiya, who visited the demolition site in Murud Monday, said he had complained to the MCZMA on 23 June this year, filed a complaint with the Ratnagiri Collector on 26 June, and discussed the issue with civil servants in the Union environment ministry on 30 June.
A central team inspected the site on 5 July and told officials from the Maharashtra environment department (which falls under Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray) that the construction is illegal and it should be demolished, he added.
‘Anil Parab’s resort’
With regards to Parab, the BJP has alleged that the minister built a sea-facing resort of about 17,000 square feet in the Murud village in the CRZ area without required permissions.
In May, a BJP delegation met Governor B.S. Koshyari seeking action against Sai Resorts, which they claimed Parab owns. BJP Lok Sabha MPs Gopal Shetty, Manoj Kotak and Somaiya also met the then Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, requesting him to send a team to inspect the violations at the site. The minister then sent a central team to the site in June.
To support the BJP’s claim of Parab owning the resort, Somaiya, in his written complaint to the ministry, also attached documents such as the property register of Murud village, acknowledgments of property tax paid by Parab in 2019 and 2020, and an application for a three-phase electricity connection for the resort in Parab’s name.
The above-mentioned Murud gram panchayat functionary said Parab used to own the resort, but sold his stake to one Sadanand Kadam.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)