Nearly three years after mid-day exposed how a six-storey school near Pali Naka in Bandra (W), constructed to provide free education to 500 economically backward children from the area is yet to see a single student, the BMC took possession of the building. This, despite the Brihanmum-bai Municipal Corporation (BMC) handing over the Occupation Certificate (OC) for the building to the developer in 2005. Sunday mid-day had reported the story, ‘Bandra school becomes dumping ground,’ on July 14, 2013.
Deputy mayor Alka Kerkar, Councillor Asif Zakaria and other officials take the keys to the school on BMC’s behalf
On Friday afternoon the education department of BMC officially took possession of the school building from Mahendra Shah, partner in Prarthana Enterprise, the developer of the prime plot on 26 Road Bandra, which is spread over 1,103 sq m, paving the way for utilizing the structure for the original purpose for which it was built.
It is still unclear, why the school never opened its doors to children for 11 years, apart from the BMC’s response to an RTI query dated June 13, 2012, which admitted to 12 teething problems at the school premises, including encroachment by a tea stall owner and a mandap wallah (pandal supplier), who are using the premises for commercial purposes. It also confirms that the building has developed cracks, has open electric wires, broken toilet seats and other issues, which had hampered the take over.
Local residents and RTI activists Lawrence Fernandes and Daphne Warapen, the two people responsible for highlighting the issue, said they welcomed the new development, in spite of the fact that it has come little too late but were currently concerned with the rumours floating around, that the BMC could hand over the running of the school to an NGO.
“For the past four years, we have been writing to and meeting all the concerned parties to resolve the issue, but it was evident that people with vested interests wanted to delay the project, which we now want to run as per the RTE guidelines and make sure it reaches the downtrodden,” said Warapen.
Asif Zakaria, the councillor from Bandra (W) who had described the laxity in transferring the plot as a classic case of lack of coordination between different government agencies, said that the builder had now paid a sum of R35 lakh to restore the school. “We have still not taken any decision on who is going to run it,” he said.
Santosh Gosavi, Assistant Engineer School Infrastructure BMC, sounding confident said that the repair work in the building will be initiated at the earliest, after a thorough inspection and estimation, so that the school is open for admission at the earliest.
Manish Salve, Assistant Engineer SRA, squarely blamed the developer for the delay in handing over the project.
“There were discrepancies in the norms of our agreement, which needed to be rectified, before the school could be handed over officially and is fit for admission,” he said.
Refuting the charges, Shah’s business associate Rajesh Patil, the builder, alleged that from the time he has received the OC in 2005, he has been approaching the civic authorities to take possession, but each time faced red tape from all quarters, which is the real irony. “The building has been lying vacant for so many years and is of no use to us. Once the project was over we moved on and are not even present on site,” he said.