Congress Bhavan in Mumbai under construction on plot alloted to Associated Journals Limited: RTI

Construction of a Congress Bhavan building is in progress instead of a Nehru library on a prime Mumbai plot alloted to Associated Journals Limited, the holding company of the 'National Herald' and 'Qaumi Ekta' newspapers, an RTI query has revealed.

The plot, situated in suburban Bandra, was also granted a waiver of interest charges of over Rs two crore that accrued
due to delayed payment for the land allotment. This information was provided to RTI activist Anil Galgali by the Fire Brigade department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).

Galgali had sought information from MCGM's building proposal department about permissions granted to M/s Associated Journals for carrying out construction on the land. It was informed that the company was issued commencement certificate on June 14, 2013 by MCGM and since the land came under the funnel of the Airport Authority, the no-objection certificate (NOC) for the same was granted on February 5, 2014. While the Fire Brigade issued NOC for Congress Bhavan on February 8, 2013.

According to details obtained through the RTI, the upcoming 11-storey Congress' building will be having minimum 135 car parking space. It also has 14 office spaces but there is no earmarking for newspaper offices, library and research centre.

Recently, Galgali wrote to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis urging that the construction activity be immediately stopped and the land allotment be scrapped. He further wrote that the possession of the land be taken by the government and since the land was originally reserved for building a hostel for Backward classes, the same be constructed on it.

Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) was allotted the land plot by the Maharashtra government in 1983 for a news publication,
a Nehru library and research centre, neither of which was built.

The interest on the amount turned out to a massive Rs 2.79 crore, which in 2001, was waived off by then Revenue Minister Ashok Chavan, it said. Government documents procured by Galgali show that the land in Bandra was allotted to AJL for Rs 1.31 crore.

However, they did not observe one of the key conditions of the lease by commencing construction in the plot within three years of it being allotted. Also, the documents show that the entire principal amount was not paid in one go. This plot, before handover to AJL, was originally reserved to build a hostel for students (Scheduled Caste).

Not only did Associated Journals not construct the press building and library, but it also managed to obtain repeated
extensions from the state government while continuing to hold on to the 30-year lease, which expired on December 22 last year, following which a two-year extension was granted, according to documents.

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