Mumbai: Ganesh Chaturthi is just a day away and when it comes to making merry and appeasing the gods, the underworld is not far behind either.
For the last 30 years the Sahyadri Krida Mandal of Tilak Nagar has been organising a Public Ganapati festivity. An occasion eagerly awaited by Satish Baliga and his army of volunteers.
It's easy to get fooled by the pandal and the fleet of volunteers which appears to be like any other. But there is something that sets it apart from the rest of the faithkeepers.
It is alleged there is some connection between the organisers and underworld don Chota Rajan. The infamous kingpin is supposed to be one of many patrons of Sahyadri Krida Mandal.
"Chota Rajan's connection is the creation of the media. It's said funds are coming from outside, Chota Rajan is funding. But enquires have already been done and the Police have Slapped Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA)," Joint General Secretary, Sahayaradi Krida Manadal, Satish Baliga says
However, for 40-year-old Babi Badekar the artist who has been making the Ganesha idol for the mandal for almost 20 years now, the association has proved to be a rather successful one.
"I can't leave this mandal. This has given me everything," Babi Badekar says.
There are more than 3,500 pandals that are lined at every nook and corner of the city each year. The official budget for the pandals range from a Rs six to seven lakh. But with the alleged involvement of the underworld, Rs 30 to 35 lakh is spent on the mandal's pandal.
The truth may appear to remain concealed from the cops. But they say they are aware and are investigating the matter.
"Where the money comes, from what is the source of funding, if there is any underworld connection like you mentioned Chota Rajan's connection with the one in Chembur – all this is under the scanner of the ATS and the Crime Branch," Joint Commissioner Law and Order, Arup Patnaik says.