It cost around Rs 70 lakh to erect. But to date only two conferences of the Maharashtra cabinet have taken place in the swank meeting hall on the first floor of Mantralaya, set up soon after three floors of the state headquarters were gutted in a fire last year.
And now comes the news that the chamber will soon be dismantled to facilitate the second phase of the administrative HQ’s makeover plan. As most cabinet meetings are being held either at Sahyadri state guesthouse in Malabar Hill or at Vidhan Bhavan, resources spent on refurbishing the hall have proved futile, said a senior member of the state cabinet.
Only cabinet meets
Another surprising fact, according to sources, is that no other meeting, apart from the ones of the cabinet, is allowed in the space. Most ministers find it difficult to call meetings at Mantralaya due to space crunch after the fire incident.
Requests made to CM’s office that the cabinet hall should be allowed to put in use for other meetings have gone unheeded. According to a senior officer from Mantralaya, many a time officials called for conferences can’t even find sufficient space to stand in the other meeting rooms appended to ministers’ chambers. When probed, an official from the state PWD said, “The offices of CM, deputy CM and chief secretary will be shifted by June 21 as per the plan devised a few days ago.” Interestingly, the date will likely coincide with the 2012 fire incident.
Zealous efforts are on to relocate the offices back on sixth, fifth and fourth floors as any failure may invite criticism and raise questions over the efficiency of the government. So when offices of Prithviraj Chavan, Ajit Pawar and J K Banthia, along with the chambers assigned to officials from the CM’s secretariat will be moved from the first floor, funds utilised on refurbishing will down the drains. Worst affected will be the library attached to the directorate general of information and public relations (DGIPR), as only last year approximately Rs 1 crore was spent to make it fireproof for safeguarding crucial documents and books.