Even after an inferno in an illegal farsan manufacturing shop killed 12 people in Mumbai’s Saki Naka area, there are still thousands of shops running illegally in the area becoming virtual ticking tinderboxes for potential fires to happen. With population over 10 lakh and over 60,000 shops, officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) L ward are having a tough time keeping vigil on unlicensed shops. Officials are now demanding a split of the ward for effective management. Every month, the ward receives over 1500 fresh applications seeking permission to open a new shop. With limited number of staff available in the Shop and Establishment department, number of applications is always high. Additionally officials also have to visit to the site to verify documents. “We have only four employees in the Shop and Establishment department who have to look after all new applications they receive every month,” said Ajit Kumar Ambi, assistant commissioner of L ward.Though the civic administration have been pushing the online system as part of ease of doing business, it is mandatory for the officials to carry a site visit. “In the days to come, the pressure is likely to come down while registering new shops in the ward, but keeping a vigil on existing shops is a difficult task,” said an official from the Shop and Establishment department of L ward. “There is a consensus issue among the corporators on merging and splitting of wards in the city which is delaying it’s implementation,” said the official.However, following the fire incident the administration has sprung into action. “ Merging and splitting of L ward is under consideration and a decision will be taken in days to come,” said Sudhir Naik, Deputy Municipal Commissioner(DMC) of BMC. Of around 60000 shops registered with the L ward, around 30,000 tiny small scale manufacturing units in the ward around the Khairane Road in Saki Naka are running illegally. According to senior civic officials, politicians have vested interest in flourishing such shops.RESOURCE CRUNCHPopulation of L ward: 10 lakh Corporators: 16 Vacant staffs in the ward: 45 Shop and Establishment: 5

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30,000 illegal shops still operational in Saki Naka