January 25, 2015 9:15:12 am
Religious structures are common in Pimpri-Chinchwad, especially close to rivers and along prominent roads. There has been a spurt in these structures in the past few years. The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation that launched a drive against illegal structures appears to have cold feet when it comes to taking action against illegal “religious structures”.
MSEDCL provides them power though the structures are illegal.
PCMC officials revealed that there are 186 illegal religious structures across the town and only 6 are legal including Morya Gosavi temple. In many cases, these started as small rooms in a chawl or a dilapidated structure, in disuse. In some cases, they were hutments on the roadside or river banks. In a few years, they turned into multi-storey buildings with free water and electricity and donations from devotees in lakhs, some of it from abroad.
“In Pimpri-Chinchwad, whether on prominent roads or riverside, land has been grabbed by those who want to set up illegal religious structures used by them for their own benefit,” alleged civic activist Shridhar Chalkha.
A “sadhu maharaj” in Pimpri-Chinchwad moves in saffron clothes in a four-wheeler worth Rs 15 lakh. “Nine-ten years back he started his spiritual practice from a hutment and now the hut has grown into multi-storey temple complex. The temple enjoys political patronage and gets funds even abroad. PCMC provides free water and other amenities,” said an activist.
PCMC officials say they will act tough against such structures in light of a Bombay High Court directive. “We are working out a plan in three phases. In the first phase, we want to shift them to another place where they cannot cause traffic chaos. Secondly, we want to remove some of them. And in the third phase, we might allow them if such structures do not cause nuisance,” said Municipal Commissioner Rajiv Jadhav. He said he would call a meeting of officials next week and invite MSEDC officials as well. “I will direct officials to convene a meeting of those who have set up illegal religious structures and inform them to act on their own before we decide any action,” he said.
An MSEDCL spokesperson said they provided electricity on humanitarian grounds. “We get a letter signed and stamped stating they would hand over our meter in case the structure is later found to be illegal and is demolished.” The spokesperson said MSEDCL will follow district collector’s directive not to supply power to these structures unless approved.
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