Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
A 14.83-ACRE plot in Thane district, which is currently being used for hospitalisation of mentally-ill patients, is set to make way for a new railway station between Mulund and Thane on the Central Railway route.
Clearing decks for the transfer of land, the Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra has approved a proposal for dereserving the portion of the land belonging to the Thane Municipal Hospital (TMH) and earmarking it for the purpose of building a new station and a bus terminus. The proposed plot is located at a distance of one km from Thane and Mulund suburban stations.
On February 18, the state urban development department, headed by Shiv Sena leader and Thane’s Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde, issued a notification sanctioning the modification of the public reservation on the land. Located in the public/semi public zone in Thane’s Naupada, the land parcel was originally reserved for the mental hospital, a pumping station, a civic primary school and a secondary school. As per the modification sanctioned by the government, it has now been reserved for a railway station, a bus terminus, and three public roads of 12 m, 18 m and 24 m width, respectively.
The land in question is a part of the 66-acre complex being used by the government-run Thane Mental Hospital since 1901. A 1,850-bed mental hospital (1,050 beds for men and 800 for women) has been functioning out of the premises. Officials said that the dereserved portion will lead to the displacement of around 400 to 500 beds for women. “Of the 14.83 acre land being dereserved, 10.13 acre is currently being used for hospital purposes while another 4.7 acre has been encroached upon,” an official said.
Contending that the new station was needed to decongest the rising commuter traffic at the Thane-end, Shinde has been pushing for the dereservation even during the previous BJP-Shiv Sena regime. He was the minister of public health, which runs the hospital, in the previous regime.
Maharashtra’s director of health services and the office of the medical superintendent of the mental hospital had initially objected to the proposal, even filing a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court in 2015, and another civil application in 2019. While the first one has been disposed of, hearing in the 2019 case is still on.
With the public health department, too, raising some queries regarding the land transfer, records show that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had convened a meeting of all stakeholders over the issue on February 12. Day after the meeting, Shinde approved the dereservation proposal.
The Sena-led Thane Municipal Corporation had originally initiated the proposal under the smart cities’ initiative, adopting a general body resolution regarding the modification of the dereservation on April 20, 2017. As per the plan, the TMH will hand over the land to the municipal corporation. As per a plan approved by the Railways, the construction of the station and the tracks would need about 3.13 acre land. The Thane civic body will build a bus terminus outside the proposed station on another 1.39 acre, while the construction of roads, parking spaces, and other amenities will consume the remaining 10.31 acres.
According to the arrangement discussed during the meeting chaired by Uddhav, officials said the Thane civic body has agreed to build a new state-of-art hospital premises for the mentally ill, along with a general hospital complex, and a super-specialty hospital within the municipal limits.
The civic body plans to raise money for the development through sale of the transferable development rights (TDR) or development rights certificate, payable to the TMH in lieu of the transfer of land. Sources said Uddhav has asked the state revenue department to verify if such a TDR could be offered in cases where the land was being transferred between two government agencies.
Sources added that the health department has also insisted on the setting up a corpus fund for upgrade of health facilities in Thane from the remainder of the TDR fund. It has also been agreed that an agreement will be signed between the Thane Municipal Corporation and the hospital over the terms of the transfer.
Further, the government has assured the hospital authorities that the construction work on the dereserved portion won’t be taken up till an alternate arrangement is put in place for the affected patients.
There are only four state-run mental health hospitals in Maharashtra with Thane being the biggest. The occupancy of the hospital is around 70 per cent on an average.