In order to decongest south Mumbai and make it free of pollution, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) had allotted 56,888 sq m of land to the Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA) for setting up the Wadala Truck Terminus (WTT) in the 1990s.
One of the finished buildings at the WTT. Pic/Shadab Khan
However, it has come to the fore that besides incompletion of the development work, a few of the BGTA members who were allotted office spaces and godowns have allegedly rented or sold these spaces. These allegations have been levelled by Banarsidas Goel, a BGTA member who was promised office space at the WTT.
One of the under-construction structures
Goel claimed there are several members who own more than one office, and even alleged the presence of a car manufacturing unit belonging to a non-BGTA member. He claimed that despite repeated complaints to the MMRDA, which not only owns the plot but is also the Special Planning Authority for the area, no action has been taken till date.
BGTA member Banarsidas Goel
Goel said, “Plenty of irregularities have been observed by the BGTA committee while allotting office spaces and godowns. Multiple sale and purchases have been done by some BGTA members, resulting in monetary losses to the state government. It was done to benefit major transporters.
On the one hand, there are members waiting for years to get what is rightfully theirs; on the other, there are a few who own multiple properties. But what takes the cake is that there are two companies which own office space in the WTT without having a transport background or any association with the BGTA. My complaints to the MMRDA Commissioner, CM’s office, Anti-Corruption Bureau and Registrar Office have fallen on deaf ears.”
Goel accused, among others, the Federation of Bombay Motors TPT of owning about 15 offices in building B-8 and BGTA member Heavy Lifters of India Private Ltd of having two offices. He even alleged that the MMRDA was hand in glove with the fraudsters.
“This is unfair. There are over 400 members on the waiting list who have legally booked offices and have been associated with the BGTA for more than 20 years. On the contrary, there is someone who is not even into transport, but still he was allotted office space. Allocation of spaces to non-members speaks volume about the fraud.”
Speaking to mid-day, Deputy Metropolitan Commissioner and MMRDA (Land Cell) head Anil Wankhade said, “We have received a complaint alleging irregularities during the allocation of spaces to BGTA members by the committee. We have already appointed an officer who is investigating the same. Based on his findings, future course of action will be decided.”
Another official from the MMRDA added that the BGTA has claimed that around 900 of its members have booked offices and godowns in phase I of the project. But there was a delay in constructing the buildings. “We gave them a chance in 2005, and extended the deadline by three years. But even today the work remains incomplete,” the official said.
The other side
“We were allotted the plot by 1999 (in phases, starting 1992) following which the MMRDA sanctioned the plan to go ahead with the construction. However, the civic body then denied permissions citing environmental and CRZ norms. The project got clearance in 2001-02.
By then, we had already wasted three years. Upon starting the work, we received a notice from BMC asking us to pay property tax. Soon after we refused to pay the amount, the civic body sent us a notice stating we owed it Rs 8 crore. We discussed the issue with the then CM in 2008 and managed to resolve it.
We then submitted a revised plan, which was sanctioned by the MMRDA in 2010, following which construction began in 2011. We had to complete a part of the project in 2013 and the remaining in 2014,” said Chimanlal Khona, member of Wadala Truck Terminus Committee, BGTA.
When questioned about the alleged sale of multiple spaces to a single member and even non-members, another member said, “The person who is alleging the fraud is a BGTA member himself and holds a grudge against us. The allotment was done through a lottery system, which was transparent. While the lottery was held for allocation of godowns, multiple office spaces can be purchased by any of the members.
Moreover, the strength of BGTA members in 1995 was less as in comparison to what it is today. Those without offices are probably the ones who didn’t apply back then.” Reacting to the allegations about inflicting monetary losses to the state, the member claimed that the committee was ready to pay the stamp duty and registration fee, but only after the MMRDA fulfills its promise of registering the society.
“Today, property rates have touched Rs 1 lakh per sq ft. And it is those with vested interests who have accused us of observing malpractices. Four buildings are ready, but the MMRDA is yet to issue Occupancy Certificates (OCs). They are deliberately doing it because they want the plot back. While there is a possibility that lottery winners might have exchanged plots amongst themselves, there is no chance of malpractice,” said another BGTA member.
>> The BGTA was supposed to construct 12 buildings: seven three-storey structures, two ground-plus-one buildings and three godowns/warehouses
>> The land was allotted in phases for which the procedure started in 1992. The agreement was also signed in the same year and the plot was given on a sub-lease of 18 years
>> BGTA was supposed to complete the construction in three years, but the work remains pending despite conditional extension given by the MMRDA
BGTA members awaiting office spaces and godowns, as claimed by Goel
Approximate number of BGTA members in 1992
No of members who have been allotted spaces at the WTT, as per a BGTA member
The BGTA Committee’s existing strength