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'If you expect any change, Mumbaikars are fools'

Last updated on: December 29, 2017 18:34 IST

‘Fourteen lives have been lost; the BMC should be charged with murder for this loss of lives,’ says Congress MLA Nitesh Rane.

IMAGE: An aerial view of the damage caused by the fire at Mumbai's Kamala Mills on Thursday night. Photograph: Sahil Salvi.

On Friday afternoon Nitesh Rane, Maharashtra Congress legislator and son of former chief minister Narayan Rane, while visiting Mumbai’s Kamala Mills, where 14 people were killed in a fire at two pubs on Thursday night, lashed out at the alleged corruption in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the country’s richest civic body, and the Mumbai police.

Speaking to Rediff.com’s Prasanna D Zore, Rane said, “People will continue to die in Mumbai so long as exemplary action is not taken against the corrupt.”

 

Do you think the government or the BMC will act against illegal pubs and restaurants after the death of 14 people in the Kamala Mills fire?

The government or the BMC may set up a committee but nothing is going to happen.

If you expect any change to happen after these incidents, then as Mumbaikars we are fools.

Nothing is going to change in Mumbai because the BMC is corrupt enough to know that only a committee will be set up to inquire into these deaths, people will create a furore for a few days and then everything will start running smoothly.

There is a rule book that every restaurant has to follow but no one follows it. You see the bank accounts of BMC officials and you will find out how they have become richer through the years.

They earn so much they wear expensive Swiss watches because all these restaurant owners bribe them to run their illegal businesses. Who has given them permission to run hookah parlours when they have licence to serve only food?

They know there are helping hands above them; they know they are going to be protected eventually. Nothing is going to happen at the cost of Mumbaikars’ lives.

Let me assure you that after a few months the same kinds of restaurants will continue to operate; same kind of rules will be broken and the same hookahs will be served illegally without any fire safety audits.

This particular restaurant was served a notice a few months ago and they were told to rectify all the illegalities but they knew that the BMC is always there to help them. So, they knew nothing will happen and so they continued with their illegal operations.

As part of the Opposition in the BMC, will your party make any efforts to change this?

I have given nine letters to the BMC seeking action against illegal hookah parlours run from Juhu till the north suburbs, to the concerned BMC officers.

IMAGE: Maharashtra legislator Nitesh Rane (in blue shirt) at Kamala Mills on  Friday afternoon. Photograph: Sahil Salvi.

Does merely sending letters change anything?

In the vidhan parishad (the legislative council of Maharashtra), the honourable CM (Devendra Fadnavis) while replying to Mr Narayan Ranesaheb (Nitesh’s father) had said that he had ordered an IG level inquiry against a hookah parlour restaurant right next to my house.

If such a fire takes place there, even my family members will be in such danger. But nothing has happened to that restaurant. It is running smoothly; there are helping hands that embolden these restaurant owners to go about their illegal businesses.

Whatever happened at Kamala Mills will happen somewhere else a few months later -- until and unless we do not punish the responsible BMC officers in an exemplary way.

Fourteen lives have been lost; the BMC should be charged with murder for this loss of lives.

Don’t you think that for this very reason the opposition parties in the BMC should be much stronger and aggressive?

The only way we can be stronger now is by slapping these BMC officials because as an MLA I have sent them letters, but they have ignored them. They are waiting for such incidents to happen, people to die, then set up committees and they will continue to act the same after the fire dies down.

Will you be more aggressive as part of the opposition after the death of these 14 people?

Definitely!

As a united opposition we are going to demand severe action against any illegal restaurants which flout rules and result in the death of precious lives.

Will you demand the resignation of BMC chief Ajoy Mehta?

You take the resignation of the commissioner or the mayor; nothing is going to change in this city.

I will be happy if after these resignations somebody gives it in writing on an affidavit that Mumbaikars will not die in this manner.

Nobody will do it that because the system is so corrupt in the BMC that everybody will want to save his own skin.

So, what must be done now?

We have to raise our voice against such a corrupt system. We don’t trust the BMC anymore. We had hopes from the city’s police but it seems they too are hand in glove with the BMC officials.

When a former chief minister (Rane) wrote a letter of complaint do you know what they said? ‘Now that Ranesaheb has lodged a complaint against the restaurant, let us demand Rs 20,000 instead of Rs 10,000 from the hotel owners.’

This is our police.

You said that nothing happened to your father’s complaint about running of an illegal hookah parlour right next to your house even after the chief minister ordered an IG level inquiry. Are you saying even the CM’s words are ignored?

The inquiry was done but the restaurant is still continuing with its illegal operation.

So are you saying nobody is taking the CM seriously?

You find that out. This is our personal experience right next door.

To tell you the truth, the chief minister had ordered an inquiry but the officers who conducted this inquiry are so shameless that they don’t give a damn to anybody.

I only hope that the chief minister takes note of this at least after what has happened at Kamala Mills.

How are you planning to take on the Shiv Sena and BJP that run the BMC?

Instead of me saying anything, you wait to see that action we take.

Prasanna D Zore / Rediff.com in Mumbai