Mumbai: State may take back Kalina campus plots

The Sena-BJP govt has asked for verification of two land deals at Kalina; former PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal was booked by ACB in one case

Hell bent on digging out land allotments that were done in the Congress-NCP regime, the BJP-Sena government has asked for verification of two land deals at Mumbai University’s Kalina campus, and take the land back, if possible legally.

The state government wants to verify whether it can take back these two acres at the Kalina campus on which construction of a residential tower is yet to begin
The state government wants to verify whether it can take back these two acres at the Kalina campus on which construction of a residential tower is yet to begin

One of the land pieces is a 4-acre plot where a private developer, Indiabulls, was allowed to build a central library for public utility purpose on two acres, and recover the expenses by exploiting the remaining land for commercial gains. The other is a 7-acre plot given to the All India Tennis Association (AITA), which is accused of commercially exploiting the property.

Two acres of the 4-acres plot, to be used for commercial gains, were given on a lease for 99 years for R1 per year. The state government now wants to verify whether it can take back those 2 acres on which construction of a residential tower is yet to begin. Indiabulls was allotted this land in a tendering procedure in 2009 by the state Public Works Department.

Minister of State for Higher and Technical Education, Ravindra Waikar on Monday ordered Mumbai University to submit why it had allowed its land to be transferred to the state government, which in turn handed it over to a private party.

This allotment is already mired in controversy, as former PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal and his kin are accused of receiving a donation of R2.5 cr from Indiabulls for their NGO Chhagan Bhujbal Charitable Trust in Nashik in exchange of facilitating the land deal. The donation, made by a generation arm of Indiabulls companies, came under the scanner of Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

The ED has arrested the ex-minister’s nephew Sameer Bhujbal for money laundering. Bhujbal, who is currently in the USA, was out of reach.

The ACB had last year booked Bhujbal and top PWD officials in this case under the Prevention of Corruption Act. In its FIR filed on June 8, the ACB has booked not just Bhujbal, but also five other bureaucrats from his erstwhile department under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, sources said the ACB has not named Indiabulls in the chargesheet, which is expected to be filed by February end in the ACB court. The donation was made under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) section of the power generation plant, which is now operational in Nashik.

Library shift
Some sitting and former senate members of the Mumbai University told mid-day that they allowed the land to be transferred to the state government because they were told that Asiatic Library would be shifted here in the new central library building.

“We were told that south Mumbai’s iconic library will shift here or the new building will also be treated at par with the Asiatic in terms of books and facilities,” a former senate member said.

State wants tennis academy land back
Waikar has also asked for a report on allotment of 7 acres to the All India Tennis Association (AITA), which is also accused of commercially exploiting the property, instead of helping out the university with its tennis activities. AITA was given 7 acres on lease to develop a world class stadium. The association has built some tennis courts where it runs a coaching programme, but it is involved in a feud with Mumbai University for allegedly violating an agreement. The university has been asking AITA to vacate the land alleging that the tennis body is exploiting the land for commercial gains, and it does not allow university students to play and avail of coaching facilities there. AITA general secretary Bharat Oza did not respond to text messages and calls.

Everything is legal, says Indiabulls
An Indiabulls Real Estate (IBREL) official told mid-day on Wednesday that the land was allotted through tendering process in which many bidders had participated. According to the company, it has so far spent Rs 130 crore for constructing a library building of international standards, and fulfilled the condition in the agreement with the government. Major portion of the bank guarantee that the company had submitted at the time of inking a deal with the PWD, is pending with the government, it said.

The company said a delay of one year or so in constructing the library building happened only because of delayed permissions from the government. The library building hasn’t been handed over to the government as yet in view of some incomplete work.

The company further said that it hasn’t started developing the land meant for a residential building as yet, because authorities have not granted it permissions like commencement certificates, without which it cannot start working on a building project.

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