Development plan marks Mumbai cemeteries for housing, road widening
A graveyard plot could later be claimed for development, may be even a housing complex
Apr 18, 2015
Source : The Times of India


MUMBAI: If the omissions and commissions of the city's draft Development Plan (DP) have got the living gnashing their teeth, the dead could be turning in their graves as their final resting places are not guaranteed in many areas. 

In a spooky move, the graveyard attached to the St. Michael's Church at Mahim has been not been marked as such, but tagged as Commercial Residential. It means the plot could later be claimed for development, may be even a housing complex. 

In some other cases, even if the graveyard has been identified correctly, they are threatened by a proposal for road widening (Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church, Chembur). Still some others are marked for social amenities and shown as parting with chunks to help improve roads (Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Borivli). 

The marking errors in DP 2034 that make a mockery of the sanctity of the cemeteries have community members aghast. They also feel it would make it difficult for them to go for changes or restructuring of the plots in future. 

Parishioners of the centuries-old Mahim church held a large public meeting on Thursday to chalk up their action plan as the church, which has thousands thronging it on Wednesdays, too has not been marked on the DP. 

"An advocate who has studied the DP plan told us our graveyard and church has been marked as Commercial and Residential (CR). We want it to be reinstated as a Christian burial ground. We are planning send in our objection letter on April 24 after getting it signed by several parishioners. The number of parishioners is around 5,000 but every Wednesday, there are about 60,000 devotees who come to the church for novenas. Considering that the church is several centuries old, the draft DP 2034 should have considered marking it and also the burial ground," said Rita D'Sa, Mahim resident and vice president of The Bombay Catholic Sabha. 

Advocate Godfrey Pimenta, who has been going to several parishes in Mumbai explaining to them the implications of the draft DP, said in case of the Our Lady of Health Church in Sahar, which has his mother's grave, the cemetery is likely to be affected by proposed road widening. 

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church at Mount Poinsur in Borivli, which has a permanent graveyard on the church premises, will also be affected by proposed road widening. Fr Barthol Barretto, the parish priest and trustee, said for a parish of 20,000 and growing, they do not want to lose any space. "There is no need for road widening as well considering that the adjoining road is not very busy. In fact, in our objection letter, we have mentioned that when we actually need more space for the graveyard as the existing place is not sufficient, why do such things in the plan? Besides, the issue holds a lot of sentimental value for us as well." 

Even Muslim cemeteries, claimed a corporator, are being neglected. Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party leader, has written to the municipal commissioner, demanding exclusive reservation for Muslim cemeteries. "I have also demanded that the minimum space for cemeteries be increased," said Shaikh. 

Officials tried to explain away the errors, saying they have decided not to mark religious sites separately in the city's plan.

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