Hoarding collapse: How nod for billboard given by police instead of BMC? asks Kirit Somaiya

A day after a hoarding collapse in Mumbai killed 14 persons and injured several others, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya asked how the permission for erecting the billboard was given by a police officer when the city civic body is the authority for it.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya on Mumbai hoarding collapse
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya on Mumbai hoarding collapse

Mumbai | A day after a hoarding collapse in Mumbai killed 14 persons and injured several others, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya asked how the permission for erecting the billboard was given by a police officer when the city civic body is the authority for it.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the former MP also claimed permissions for the hoarding and a petrol pump (where the billboard collapsed) were given when Uddhav Thackeray was the chief minister of Maharashtra.

Had the then director general of police been strict, such a hoarding would not have come up, he said.

Somaiya also said the permission on paper was given for a 40 feet hoarding whereas the billboard which collapsed was 120 feet tall.

The billboard fell at a petrol pump in Ghatkopar during dust storms and unseasonal rains that lashed Mumbai on Monday, killing 14 persons and injuring 74.

"An ACP of railway police, which is part of the Maharashtra state police force, gave permission for the erection of the hoarding on December 7, 2021. How can a police officer give such permission when such rights lie with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)? The permission on paper was for a 40 feet hoarding, but in reality, it was 120 feet high," Somaiya said.

"I believe that there are similar 400 hoardings in various parts of Mumbai, which are exceeding their size limits and standing on a weak foundation like the one in Ghatkopar," he said.

Somaiya said he has requested Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis to get such dangerous hoardings removed across Mumbai immediately.

The land on which the petrol pump and the hoarding came up was given to the railway police wing of the Maharashtra Police, he said.

It was then handed over to the Police Welfare Fund, Somaiya said, adding that of the total size of the land, around 40,000 square feet plot was given to some institution and later reserved for petrol pump.

"After the fuel station came up, then ACP (Admin) Shahaji Nikam of railway police gave permission for the erection of the advertisement hoarding near it. It was illegal, but nobody took it up," he claimed.

The fuel station received permission on January 30, 2020, the BJP leader said.

"It was run by Commissioner of Police Mumbai Railway Kalyan Nidhi Sanstha, but its operations and staff management were with the Lords Mark Industries Pvt Ltd. The monthly rent of the fuel station was Rs 16,97,440," he said.

Somaiya said he tried to find out details of the ownership of Lords Mark Industries, but its owners changed several times in the last couple of years.

"All the permissions for the fuel station and hoardings were given when Uddhav Thackeray was the chief minister of Maharashtra. But I am not keen on politicising the issue. The focus should be on Bhavesh Bhinde of the Ego Media Pvt Ltd, the advertising agency responsible for erecting the hoarding near the fuel station and the police officials who gave permissions," he said.

"Had the then director general of police been strict, such hoarding would not have come up," he said.

Meanwhile, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra on Tuesday posted a clip on his X handle showing the hoarding collapsing and said such an incident was unacceptable.

"And we're a city trying to transform itself into a modern metropolis. CM Shinde has ordered a probe into all hoardings. Stringent rules must follow," he added.

A case has been registered against Bhavesh Bhinde and others for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code at Pant Nagar police station, an official earlier said.

The BMC on Monday issued a notice to the advertisement agency for installing the hoarding that collapsed on the petrol pump during the gusty winds.

The Assistant Police Commissioner (Admin) had given permission for erecting four hoardings on behalf of the Commissioner of Railway Police, Mumbai, including the one which collapsed on Monday, but no official permission or NOC was obtained from the BMC, as per a civic official.

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