MHADA caught between minister and his orders

Updated: Jul 31, 2019, 09:18 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar

Housing body officials, who had secured go-ahead from state housing minister to appoint one contractor for all retaining walls, have now been advised by him against doing so

MHADA caught between minister and his orders
The retention wall at Malad's Ambedkar Nagar collapsed on July 2 following heavy monsoon. Representation pic

Retaining walls have been caught in yet another controversy as the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) officials are left confused with housing minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil's latest instructions over the appointment of contractors for the construction of these walls in Mumbai. The MHADA had recently decided to appoint a single contractor for the construction of retaining walls but the decision was challenged by a labours' cooperative in the court. The housing authority, however, justified its decision and got a go-ahead in the matter. In the recently concluded state legislative session, Vikhe-Patil too endorsed MHADA's stand.

However, on June 20, Vikhe-Patil instructed MHADA's vice president to cancel the earlier process and invite fresh bids for multiple contractors for the work. The order for cancellation of earlier tenders was issued after Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh sent a letter to the minister making this demand. Congress turncoat Vikhe-Patil in his remark on Shaikh's letter tagged the order as "most-urgent." He asked for immediate cancellation of the earlier process and called for "new tenders for selection of contractors."

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Citing the intense monsoon and resultant urgency to construct retaining walls, the MHADA had decided to allot the contract to a single contractor through the e-tendering process. The decision was challenged in the High Court but the MHADA explained the urgency.

The letter MLA Aslam Shaikh sent to housing minister Vikhe-Patil
The letter MLA Aslam Shaikh sent to housing minister Vikhe-Patil

Heard MLAs' demand

When asked about the change in his stance, Vikhe-Patil told mid-day, "The MLA fund is used for the construction of the retention wall in every Assembly segment. Many Mumbai MLAs were against the appointment of a single contractor and demanded to have a separate contractor for each segment. The order to invite for fresh tenders was issued merely on the request of public representatives."

Some MLAs of the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena too have given their signatures on the letter written by Shaikh to Vikhe-Patil. Shiv Sena MLAs Prakash Surve and Sanjay Potnis along with the BJP MLAsRam Kadam, Bharti Lavekar and Ameet Satam are some of the signatories. Milind Mhaiskar, VP (MHADA) did not respond to our calls and text messages.

"I had objected to the single contractor process earlier too and it was cancelled then. But MHADA resumed it now and hence I sent the letter," said Shaikh, who was the only to object it earlier. "A single contractor, apart from resulting it monopoly, also makes work more time-consuming and cumbersome," he explained the reason behind his objection. Retaining walls are usually built to resist the pressure of soil and water in areas with slopes. One such retaining wall in Malad collapsed earlier this month, killing more than 20 people and injuring many others.

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