MUMBAI: "Give me justice or just hang me if I am at fault," says 76-year-old Laxmi Narayan Adval. Frail and fatigued, the widow single-handedly battled corrupt officials in Mulund municipal ward office for 21-long years and finally achieved justice in 2006.
Although perseverance prevailed, it was Adval's plea under the Right to Information Act which helped her retain ownership of her plot in Mulund, besides getting sanctions from the ward office for construction of shops, an assurance ignored by the BMC since 1985. Adval put up a fight with corrupt officials who tried all tricks to compel her to sell off the land to builders. "I had sat on a five-day dharna outside the ward office in 1985 as a mark of protest but it was RTI which helped me get justice after 21 years," Adval said.
Unable to deny the hapless widow's just demand under the RTI, the 'T' ward office finally carried out a measurement of her Gokahle road plot in Mulund (E), sanctioned the long-pending plans for construction of commercial structures on Adval's land in January 2006.
The Adval family's woes began after the BMC on three difference occasions, since 1968 up to 1985, acquired nearly 300 sq mts of their land for a road widening project.
"The then BMC administrative officer D M Sukhtankar had written to us stating that we would be compensated for the loss of our land. The then ward officer I L Darji in 1985 had promised to allow us to construct shops abutting the road so as to enable us to make both ends meet. Sukhtankar promised that the BMC officials would measure the plot and finalise the plans for the shops soon," Adval said.
However, no plans were drawn up for the shops and repeated queries by Adval with the 'T' ward office only resulted in angry reactions.
"They would make me wait for hours and persuade me to sell off the plot to builders. Upon my refusal they would scream at me, humiliate me and throw me out of their cabin. There have been instances when they would forward a blank paper and sweet-talk me to sign on it. But how could I just give my land away which was purchased by my husband after spending every penny in the house," Adval said.
Although Adval's first application under the RTI to the assistant commissioner of 'T' ward in November 2005 failed to get any favourable response, it was her subsequent review application before the deputy municipal commissioner which upheld her demand.
"The DMC upheld my plea and directed the local ward office to measure my plot and also to draw up a plan for sanctioning shops on the plot. It was after this that the BMC swung into action and finally gave me the plans for constructing two shops," said Adval.
Today the widow is at peace for having proved her point. "I am happy today but looking back I feel sad that 21 years of my life has been spent suffering because of the neglect by the BMC. My house if full of papers and files. I will continue to fight them as they are still not living up to their earlier promise to allow construction of 3 shops and FSI for the land the BMC had acquired then," Adval said.