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Indian family in Mumbai 'Trump Tower' dispute

28 june 2011, 10:19
An Indian family are refusing to budge from their home in Mumbai to make way for a new luxury apartment block being built by billionaire US property tycoon Donald Trump, they told AFP on Friday.

The Panvalkar family say they will not move from their first-floor flat in a building earmarked for demolition to make way for the tower block, claiming that Trump's local partner has refused to give them alternative accommodation.
"We're not resisting. We're for the development and we want it to take place but anything the developer who has taken on this project does has to be done according to the law," said Prasad Panvalkar.

"They don't want to rehouse us on the same plot but want us to go away permanently," he said.

Small businessman Panvalkar, 51, lives in the south Mumbai property with his wife, Smita, also 51, son Akshay, 20, and 50-year-old brother-in-law Atul Rao.

The flat, which belongs to Rao, has been in the family's possession since the block was built in 1929, he added.

He said he refused to be pressured into leaving and that he was legally entitled to be temporarily housed and offered a flat in the new development.

The building's other tenants have all left. Workmen have since moved in and shored up the interior with bamboo scaffolding. They were seen shifting rubble and fittings on Friday.

The adjoining building has been demolished and the site is now fenced off.

Panvalkar said they had their electricity supply cut off for 42 days and it was only recently reconnected after he complained to the local authority.

"We're not against Donald Trump," he added. "He wants to make his landmark project in Mumbai and we're happy about that. But he might not be aware of such facts."

Property firm Rohan Lifescapes denied the allegations, telling the Mumbai Mirror newspaper that it had offered to relocate the family until the new complex was complete, at which time they would get an apartment in the block.

Panvalkar, however, said the offer was only made after their situation was covered in the local press.

AFP contacted Rohan Lifescapes but no one responded for comment.

Straight-talking Trump, who presents the television show "The Apprentice" and recently decided not to run for the US presidency, entered into the partnership for his first foray in the Indian property market.

Demand is growing for luxury accommodation in India on the back of the country's economic boom.

The Mumbai project -- dubbed "Trump Tower, Mumbai" in the local press -- is on prime real estate near the city's landmark Chowpatty beach and off the sweeping Marine Drive promenade.

It is not the first to run into opposition.

Work on what Trump said would be "the world's greatest golf course" near the Scottish city of Aberdeen was delayed for four years over environmental concerns, sparking public inquiries and government intervention.

One salmon fisherman, whose ramshackle farm was in the way of the proposed second hole, refused to leave.

Work eventually started on the $1.1 billion scheme, which also includes holiday apartments, last year.

But according to a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper this week, Trump has been forced to postpone the opening of the Scottish golf resort until at least July next year owing to the global financial crisis.

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