It took the BMC 23 years to wake up from its slumber, and issue a final notice to a developer, who was handed over the responsibility of the redevelopment of Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir amphitheatre, also known as Rang Mandir. The structure was to be built on a prime plot measuring 9,950 sq m in Bandra West — but the builder failed to do so all these years.
The CEO of K R Foundation says they may inaugurate the auditorium soon. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
On January 3, 2010, Sunday mid-day had exposed how the auditorium, which was to be redeveloped by K R Foundation in 1992, had missed its completion deadline by 18 years (at the time of publishing that article). Currently there are just seven more years for the 30 years lease agreement to expire. They had to pay Rs 3.16 lakh per year for the lease.
mid-day has a copy of a final order, issued by the Assistant Commissioner, Estates, on Sept 24, which not only categorically gives the developer a 2015-end deadline to complete and commission the auditorium or face action, but also seeks a fine of R4,75,96,265, toward revenue loss due to late completion of work.
Aftab Siddique, a Bandra-based activist, who was responsible for unearthing the facts of the case under RTI, questioned why the municipal commissioner revoked his own previous order against a defaulter of 23 years.
“It is obvious that there is political pressure at play, that too at a time when there are just seven years of lease pending and BMC has scrapped the care taker policy,” she alleged. Siddique claimed that she had papers which clearly showed that the project had been re-validated over six times from the time the agreement had been signed.
“Contrary to the claims made by the K R Raheja group, that just like their other numerous charitable hospitals and colleges, which have been constructed without taking a single rupee in donation from anyone, the agreement copy (SUNDAY mid-day has a copy), clearly states the foundation shall be entitled and permitted to rent out the theatre for performing shows, dramas, musical programmes, and other social and cultural activities — thus giving it a commercial angle,” she alleged.
An RTI response from the BMC had also categorically stated that no building plans have been approved by the Building Proposal department of H West Ward, as per BMC records (SMD has a copy).
Vijay Kamble, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, H-west ward
All papers pertaining to the redevelopment of Rang Mandir have been handed over to the Assistant Commissioner of Estates, BMC, and all directives given by them are being followed.
Vishwas Shankarwar, Assistant Commissioner, BMC, Estates
The December 31 deadline has been sanctioned on the basis of an undertaking given by the KR Foundation to complete the redevelopment.
The other side
Mahinder Chande, Chief Executive Officer of K R Raheja Foundation, who heads the Rang Mandir redevelopment, and had earlier stated that an internal family dispute and legal matters, were responsible for the delay in executing the project, had also said that they possessed all the requisite paperwork and permissions for the development of the plot and anyone claiming otherwise, is misguiding the public and tarnishing their image.
He said the auditorium was almost complete and only required chairs and carpets, before the facility could be opened. “We may not have to wait for the year end deadline, as we are in a position to inaugurate the auditorium, even during Diwali. It will be a state of the art facility, where we plan to promote Indian Culture and also have classes for classical music and dance,” he said. Chande added that though they have been paying all the taxes, there was some discrepancy in the amount levied as fine on his company.
“We were supposed to give the auditorium to the BMC for 20 days in a month as per our agreement, which could not be fulfilled due to the delay in the project, which has cost us Rs 40 crore, which have been utilized from our trust funds, with the objective of betterment of society on a non profit basis. We are running charitable hospitals and colleges without taking a single rupee in donation.”