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mid-day impact: Following expose on how, instead of levying penalty, civic body tried to allow errant developer to rebuild faulty towers; Shiv Sena, BJP, NCP, Congress scuttle ploy
The civic body's proposal to ask Skylark Buildcon to construct new housing units for project-affected people (PAP), instead of the civic body recovering Rs 70.66 crore from the developer for the previous inferior quality tenements, witnessed stiff opposition in the improvements committee meeting on Wednesday.
mid-day had predicted on November 27 that this could happen. The proposal was not taken up following uproar from the Shiv Sena, BJP, Congress and NCP corporators. BJP corporator Vinod Mishra said not only the developer, but BMC administration, too, flouted all norms. "Even in early 2000, when the deal happened, the administration did not take any permission from the improvements committee, which is mandatory for any leasing, selling or handover of land to an individual or institute," he told mid-day, further alleging that developer handed over a temporary structure to the corporation as permanent.
The Congress, on the other hand, has accused BMC of favouring the developer and demanded a detailed probe in the case. "No tendering process was followed while selecting the developer. It is a clear violation of rules," said Ashraf Azmi, deputy leader of Congress in the BMC. Slamming the administration for treating the developer with kid gloves, Sena corporator Kishori Pednekar said, "A developer will always look for his benefit, it is the civic body that's at fault for handling the issue like this. We were going to record the proposal, but that would have put the poor PAPs at a disadvantage. Hence, it was not taken."
The Lower Parel plot where the PAP units were constructed and then demolished. Pics/Ashish Raje
Root of the problem
The administration had initially proposed to recover Rs 70.66 core from the developer but later decided to settle the issue by asking him to construct new units and hand them over to the civic body. Twelve to 15 years back, the developer had constructed ground-plus-seven storey structures having 608 flats of 225 square feet each for PAPs free of cost on a vacant plot in Lower Parel provided by the BMC.
In exchange, he had got transfer of development rights (TDR). But when the estate department inspected the properties, it claimed that instead of constructing RCC (reinforced cement concrete) structures, the firm had erected steel ones. A couple of years back, these were pulled down on the ground that they were in a bad condition and not fit for habitation.
While housing activists have already raised the red flag on the issue, BMC sees nothing wrong or fishy in the deal. "We are not losing any revenue; in fact, corporation will save a lot by asking the developer to construct new units," a senior civic official reiterated.
Skylark Buildcon Private is owned by Sudhakar Shetty and his family members. He also owns influential Marathi news channel Jai Maharashtra. While he was unavailable for comment on the latest development, he had earlier refuted all allegations. His argument had been that structures were damaged by families staying there, besides rubbishing BMC's calculation to arrive at Rs 70.66 crore.
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