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Rediff.com  » News » Hazare may not be able to hold protest in Mumbai. Here's why

Hazare may not be able to hold protest in Mumbai. Here's why

Last updated on: December 23, 2011 11:39 IST

Hazare may not be able to hold protest in Mumbai. Here's why

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With just three days left for Anna Hazare's fast to commence, members of India Against Corruption are running from pillar to post to secure requisite clearances, reports Toral Varia Deshpande

With Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavhan turning down team Hazare's request for exemption from paying heavy rent rates for Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority ground, India Against Corruption has now shifted the venue to Mumbai's Azad Maidan.

 

"IAC volunteers were hopeful that the chief minister would give an exemption to Annaji and Mumbai's citizens to hold a peaceful protest at MMRDA. However, we have been denied our right to protest and we have shifted the venue to Azad Maidan," said IAC in a statement released to the media.

 

Exemptions or even concessions were denied because IAC is not registered as a trust and is not conducting a religious programme, hence they will have to pay commercial charges if they want to utilise the 30,000 sq ft MMRDA ground.

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Image: Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare
Photographs: Reuters

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But even as the decision on the venue has been taken, Team Anna volunteers have their hands full -- getting requisite clearances from a minimum of five departments of the government.

Hazare's three-day fast against United Progressive Alliance's Lokpal Bill is expected to commence on the December 27. In effect, Team Anna has only three working days left to secure clearance from the local police station, traffic, fire brigade, the public works department (for the dias) as well as the sports department and others who own the ground.

When contacted, one of the IAC spokespersons, Preeti Menon told rediff.com, "Volunteers have already sent out applications to the sports secretary and others who own the ground. However, the required clearances haven't yet been secured."

"The IAC has sent intimations to the office of Additional Commissioner of Police Naval Bajaj the fire department, Public Works Department and also the traffic police for clearance. So far none of the clearances have come through," she added.

While securing permission is not impossible, it's not an easy task either.

 

Rediff.com has learnt that all the departments have been told to strictly go by the book and not make any exemptions for the team.



Image: Demonstrators wearing caps similar to the one worn by social activist Anna Hazare gather during protest rally against corruption in Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters

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"We have certain conditions and pre-requisites which we have put before Team Anna. If they meet all the conditions and adhere to rules, there is no reason why we should not give them permissions," said Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik.

According to sources, some of the most pressing conditions put before Team Anna are those of traffic and parking. According to the police, they foresee a severely affected South Mumbai, especially the stretch around Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus up to Fort in one direction and up to Churchgate station in another.

While parking will not be allowed near Azad Maidan, areas leading up to core commercial hubs are expected to face serious traffic jams.

"We cannot afford to have a chaotic situation in south Mumbai because those are working days, festive days and security as it is is on high alert given the looming threat of terrorism," said Patnaik.

While MMRDA is proving too costly for IAC, permissions for the 'whole' of Azad Maidan have also not been granted. "We as police have the authority to give permission only for the small triangular area (approximately 1,200 sq metres) situated right near the gates as you enter the maidan. If they need the whole maidan, then they need the permission from the sports department and other owners as it's their property," informed Patnaik.

There are as many as 21 cricket pitches on the ground, which is partly owned by the sports department and the Mumbai Cricket Association and others.

According to N P Mote, deputy director of sports department, "IAC members had approached us, seeking permission to use the sports field for Anna's protests. But we have denied the permission, as according to a high court direction, sports grounds cannot be used for rallies and protests. There are nearly 22 cricket pitches at Azad Maidan. Tournaments are scheduled to be held from December 27 to 30. IAC guys had sought permission to use the Bombay sports promises for protests. No permission has been granted by sports authorities".


Image: Supporters of veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare wave placards during a protest rally against corruption in Mumbai
Photographs: Reuters

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Interestingly, before shifting the venue from MMRDA to Azad Maidan, Team Anna was looking at booking a huge area of 30,000 sq ft and expecting a turnout of at least one lakh supporters.

However, in the meeting with Bajaj, Team Anna has informed that they would be only 1,001 in number.

"We are 1,000 volunteers plus one Anna Hazare. We have already informed Mr Bajaj that we will be protesting there, but the police will have to take care of the supporters who turn up. On our part, we are also trying to book the entire ground," said Menon.

The current area that the police is authorised to give permissions for can accommodate a maximum number of 2,000 people.

Besides, as is a practice with the IAC members, a parallel booking of Ramlila grounds has also been secured. According to sources, if after all attempts IAC fails to secure an appropriate location for Anna's proposed fast, then a last minute decision to shift the protest from Mumbai to Delhi [ Images ] is also a possibility.


Image: A bike rally in support of Hazare at CST, Mumbai


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