After court tick-off, Team Anna gets Mumbai ground for agitation

Mumbai : Anna Hazare flayed the demand for concession as “improper”, but his activist supporters nevertheless managed to get the MMRDA ground here at low rates from the state government for their agitation there from Dec 27 after the Bombay High Court declined to grant any waiver in the rent.

The Maharashtra government-run Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) agreed to give its ground at concessional rates to Team Anna that would entail a saving of nearly Rs.450,000 to the organisers, India Against Corruption member Mayank Gandhi said.

Now, the organizers will pay around Rs.680,000 instead of the earlier demand of Rs.11,80,000, plus heavy deposits for the use of the ground, Gandhi said. The daily rental of the ground in suburban Bandra-Kurla Complex area in posh central Mumbai is Rs.3.80 lakh.

Earlier, Team Anna got a ticking off from the Bombay High Court, which they had approached challenging the high commercial rates – amounting to around Rs.19 lakh, including a hefty deposit of around Rs.700,000 – for the use of the ground from dec 27 to 31.

The court made sharp observations on the need for Hazare to hold an agitation “outside” when the Lokpal bill was being debated in parliament.

The court also observed that if they wanted to agitate, then they must pay for the hiring charges for the venue and demanding it free was not proper.

Ultimately, the court declined to interfere in the matter of the MMRDA’s fees and disposed of the petition.

Team Anna has agreed to pay the concessional charges which the government body agreed to levy.

Gandhi said that following the court’s order, the IAC would now re-apply through another registered organisation to book the venue for the agitation scheduled Dec 27-31.

Anna Hazare Friday flayed as “improper” the decision by his activist supporters to move the court seeking concessions for the MMRDA ground for his proposed Dec 27-31 agitation demanding a strong Lokpal bill.

“The decision by my activists was not correct. They are inexperienced and have committed a mistake. But now they have learnt a lesson,” Hazare told media persons at his village, Ralegan-Siddhi in Ahmednagar district, shortly after the court decision.

“I am told that the MMRDA will give us some concessions and we are also getting donors to cover that cost. So, I have given the green signal for the venue,” said Hazare, who Friday morning threatened to agitate from the jail if a proper venue was not given.

Earlier, Team Anna had wanted to hold the agitation at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, but the state sports ministry had raised objections to a hunger strike being held there.

“The venue which they (Team Anna) want is reserved only for sports or religious activities, not for such agitations, so we have objected. They can seek any other venue within the Azad Maidan,” state Deputy Director, Sports, N.B. Mote told IANS.

The MMRDA ground was earlier booked by IAC’s Jagruti Nagrik Manch, which is not a NGO recognised by the state government, and the MMRDA authorities had thus levied commercial rates plus a steep deposit fee.

After the MMRDA agreed to give concessions, Gandhi said Team Anna would now re-apply for the venue in the name of a Delhi-based organisation – Public Cause Research Foundation, another of IAC affiliates, which is a registered organisation.

Told about Hazare saying he did not approve of their seeking concessions, Gandhi said if Hazare felt his team had committed a mistake, they accepted it.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi Team Anna claimed that Delhi Police had given them the nod to hold their protest at Ramlila Maidan from Dec 27 for five days. The police, however, refused to comment.

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