Mumbai: Care centre shut in 2015 but still owes BMC Rs 2 crore

The Dhirubhai Ambani Memorial Trust used to run a care centre for senior citizens for the BMC; the outstanding amount is for rent and property tax, according to civic body

The Dhirubhai Ambani Memorial Trust (DAMT) owes the BMC more than Rs 2 crore in property tax and rent. The NGO used to run a care centre for senior citizens in the BMC’s maternity home at Girgaum from 2004. It was supposed to pay this amount to the BMC, until the centre closed down in August last year, but still has not. The BMC has now begun legal proceedings for the same. The NGO claims the matter is under dispute.

The centre was run at the Suryakant Wagal Maternity Home at Girgaum. The DAMT had asked for rent waiver, which was sanctioned in 2011. However, it was asked to pay it till then and subsequently pay rent of Rs 1 p.a. along with property tax, electricity charges and water bills. Pic/Satej Shinde
The centre was run at the Suryakant Wagal Maternity Home at Girgaum. The DAMT had asked for rent waiver, which was sanctioned in 2011. However, it was asked to pay it till then and subsequently pay rent of Rs 1 p.a. along with property tax, electricity charges and water bills. Pic/Satej Shinde

The BMC in 2004 entered into agreements with several private healthcare organisations under a Public Private Partnership model. One such partnership was with the DAMT, part of the Harmony group (Anil Ambani group of companies). According to BMC documents, the 5th, 6th and 7th floors of Suryakant Wagal Maternity Home, Zaobawadi, Girgaum, were allotted to DAMT to establish, conduct and manage a Geriatric Interactive Centre for senior citizens. The centre started running from 2004 onwards. The DAMT soon asked the BMC for a waiver of rent. The BMC, as per its 2011 resolution, allowed DAMT to pay a nominal rent of Rs 1 per sq feet ‘subject to the Trust paying the rent of R1,07,340 till the date of sanction (of the waiver) and subsequently the rent of R1 p.a. along with property tax, electricity charges and water bills to be paid by the Trust.’ This means that the centre was asked to pay the rent until the time it was waived off in 2011. Besides, as per the BMC’s PPP policy, the NGO was supposed to pay property tax for the rented space. The total comes to Rs 2.40 crore.

According to documents from the BMC’s public health department, DAMT, as several other private parties, has not paid the amount. The centre was closed down in August 2015. Towards its closure, the BMC had sent a letter asking DAMT to make “payments within 15 days failing which recovery procedures and legal actions will be initiated against the Trust following due procedures and provisions of law without any further notice,” The letter written by the BMC to DAMT is dated August 2015.

Terms violated
“Several such organisations have violated the terms of agreement with the BMC. I have written letters to the municipal commissioner in the matter but no concrete action has been taken. The BMC keeps sending notices to them. My last letter to the commissioner was in December 2015. There has been no response even to that,” said nominated corporator Ashwin Vyas, who is also a member of the civic health committee.

“Yes, several of these organisations have flouted such terms. We have sent them notices. In this case, the agreement of DAMT was terminated and space has been taken over by BMC,” informed Dr Padmaja Keskar, executive health officer, BMC.

Violation of terms
According to a letter sent by the BMC to DAMT in August 2015, DAMT has violated the following terms:

>> Outstanding payment of Rs 1,01,01,205 towards property tax

>> Outstanding payment of rent Rs 1,39,54,200 (Rs 1,07,340 per month from October 2004 to July 2015)

>> Abstaining to come forward to sign a formal agreement for the centre for the period starting October 2004 till date

The other side
According to a July 2015 letter written by DAMT to the BMC, the building at Girgaum needed extensive repairs at the time, which were done by the NGO at the cost of Rs 1 crore.

“...We have been wrongfully charged/ delivered receipts of exorbitant amount pertaining to levy of property taxes and other municipal taxes from time to time since October 2005 overzealously by the Assessor and Collector department (of the BMC), even when the matter of fixation/finalizing the rent was pending with MCGM.”

The letter goes on to say that the BMC has failed to address several issues faced by the NGO and is instead looking at the matter in a hard and materialistic light. It further says that it would not be feasible for the organisation to run the centre any more. The centre was closed down in August 2015 soon after and the letter had blamed the BMC for it.

When mid-day contacted the concerned official from DAMT, who was also the signatory for the above letter, he said, “The matter is under dispute. Our legal team is looking into it. There is a hearing on the 29th.”

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