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Did BMC frame Pankaj Joshi?

Two senior civic officials face probe after blacklisting urban planner and conservation architect hours after he was appointed to three government panels concerning high-rises, heritage structures and infrastructure

Two senior officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are under the scanner for arbitrarily blacklisting urban planner and conservation architect, Pankaj Joshi, just a day after he was appointed to three separate expert panels concerning high-rises, heritage structures and a committee set up by Minister of Transport Nitin Gadkari to review Mumbai’s crumbling infrastructure.

A day before Pankaj Joshi (inset) was blacklisted, transport minister Nitin Gadkari appointed him to three different panels
A day before Pankaj Joshi (inset) was blacklisted, transport minister Nitin Gadkari appointed him to three different panels

On January 26, the civic body passed the order to blacklist M/s Pankaj Joshi Consultants for causing financial loss of R2.82 crore to the corporation by producing forged bills. A few hours before the order, Gadkari had appointed Joshi, architect, Hafeez Contractor and Director of Sir JJ School of Art, Vishwanath Sable, to a panel to work out an ambitious development plan for Mumbai involving the revival of waterways and floating hotels along with a ring road.

Joshi, who is also Executive Director of the Urban Development Research Institute (UDRI), was also on the newly-formed high-rise committee to scrutinise proposals of buildings over 90 mts or 24 floors. He was also expected to review and study development of heritage structures of the city.

Then, in a curious turn of events, the BMC put the blacklisting order signed by the additional municipal commissioner (WS), on hold and turned its initial circular into a show-cause notice on July 3 on the grounds that Joshi wasn’t given a formal hearing before the proposed action. The initial order now is on hold and facing scrutiny on the grounds that it was ‘arbitrary and unfair, issued without inviting Joshi for a hearing’.

Joshi alleged that the two senior officers of the Building Construction and Planning and Design Cell issued the order at the behest of the builder lobby. “This was an illegal and arbitrary order and everybody is aware of the dodgy credentials of the two officers who signed these orders. This order was passed without any paperwork, and on the day I was appointed to three expert panels. Both the government and builders have been opposing formation of these committees for a long time, and this order clearly is an attempt to suppress my voice,” he said.

“We are now probing if the two officers who issued orders had a personal grudge or vendetta against Joshi. This is major embarrassment for us — we appear to have made a mistake in passing this order. In three weeks, we will gauge what exactly went wrong in this matter,” said a senior BMC official.

It must be noted that Joshi and UDRI have actively slammed the BMC’s Existing Land Use (ELU) survey, which forms the very basis for the city’s new development plan between 2014-2034. The UDRI had identified over 1,000 errors in ELU, which BMC claimed were just deviations from the original city plan.

According to the initial order, Joshi failed to provide accurate BOQs (Bills of Quantity) for the work at the Engineering Hub at E Moses Road, Worli, resulting in inflated cost of the said work and thereby causing financial loss to the MCGM.

The order also seeks to recover Rs 2.82 cr from the consultancy fee proposed for the work. ‘It is to be informed to all departments that no new work be given to Pankaj Joshi Consultants and to keep a close watch on the ongoing works carried out by the consultant. Also, no fees be paid to them for ongoing work without an NOC from the AMC (WS),’ reads the order.

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