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Lalbaugcha Raja Mandal fined Rs 60 lakh for leaving potholes on roads

The Lalbaugcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal, the organisers of one of Mumbai’s most popular Ganpati pandals, has been fined Rs 60 lakh over the past six years for failing to fill the holes that it digs on roads to install decoration, according to a local activist.

Citing data obtained through the Right to Information Act, Mahesh Vengurlekar said the Mandal dug 953 trenches in 2018 alone. “Every year, it creates a similar number of holes on roads but seldom fills them,” Vengurlekar said, “The Mandal hasn’t paid anything so far.”

The Lalbaug Mandal stressed that it had cleared all pending dues. However, its claim was rejected by a civic official, who did not wish to be named.

Organising bodies across the city seek BMC permission to dig roads to set up pandals during the Ganeshotsav. However, if the holes are left unfilled, they are no different from potholes. The result is inconvenience to motorists and risk to those on foot. As per BMC rules, the civic body fines mandals Rs 2,000 per pothole.

The BMC has also added interest on the fine over non-payment in this case, said Vengurlekar. “They have sent a notice to the Mandal.”

Mandal secretary Sudhir Salvi said the BMC had asked them to pay fines for roads that don’t come under the area they cover. “The BMC had fined us for potholes on Paralkar Marg and near KEM Hospital. We had challenged it and given a counter-letter to the civic body. We have cleared all the dues and I can even send you the bills to prove it,” said Salvi.

An official from the local ward office (F South) said they will soon act against the Mandal for not paying the fine.

According to Mumbai’s Ganeshotsav co-ordination committee, it is the moral obligation of organisers to fill potholes after the festival is over. “The responsibility to fill the holes lies with the mandals. They should assist the civic body in this. This is a part of their social obligation,” said Naresh Dahibavkar, president of BruhanMumbai Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti.

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