Mumbai: Did the BGTA panel give space to non-members on allotted land?
Major lapses have come to light in MMRDA's inquiry conducted into the allotment of a 56,888-sqm land parcel to the Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA)
MMRDA had allotted a 56,888-sqm land parcel to the Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA) in 1990 to construct the Wadala Truck Terminal
Major lapses have come to light in MMRDA's inquiry conducted into the allotment of a 56,888-sqm land parcel to the Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA). MMRDA had allotted the land to BGTA for setting up Wadala Truck Terminal way back in 1990, but the latter allegedly flouted conditions of its agreement with MMRDA while giving portions from the land to its members.
Additional collector of Palghar district Shridhar Dube Patil, who was earlier the additional collector of Metro II (MMRDA), had submitted a 2,362-page confidential report, highlighting the lapses and revenue losses to the state exchequer, to Metropolitan Commissioner U P S Madan in October 2017. Though he was transferred to Palghar after that, he said, "My transfer was a routine administrative affair and had nothing to do with the inquiry."
Madan is said to have gone through the report in December. His note on it reads, "The Enquiry Officer has gone into various aspects. There seem to be several irregularities, prima facie in the affairs of the BGTA Mahasangh... There may be somewhere action can be taken by us, in other cases, it may have to be referred to Co-operative Department / Stamp Duty office/ Revenue department. Please examine the report and put up for action… (sic)"
The whistle blows
Interestingly, MMRDA had received a complaint alleging irregularities in the allocation of spaces to BGTA members by the committee. A detailed initial probe was carried out in October 2014 by the office of the Deputy Metropolitan Commissioner and MMRDA (land cell) Anil Wankhade, whose prima facie findings substantiated the allegations.
The complaint had been by Banarsidas Goel, a BGTA member and proprietor of Goel Transport Company. Goel said, "Plenty of irregularities have been observed by the BGTA committee while allotting office spaces and godowns. Multiple sales and purchases have been done by some BGTA members, resulting in monetary losses to the state government.
"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 that 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, until this report," he added.
Madan, Additional Controller of Stamps, Mumbai, Suresh Jadhav and Secretary of state Urban Development Department Manisha Mhaiskar remained available for comment.
When asked if the ACB was carrying out any inquiry, Additional Director General of Police (ACB) Vivek Phansalkar said, "I am not in a position to make any comment."
Another ACB officer said, "If at all any such report is out, we need the MMRDA, which is the landowner, to lodge an official complaint with us; only then, we will look into it."
The other side
BGTA president Vijay Rawal said, "There is no irregularity… some members having a grudge against certain office-bearers are trying to make an issue out of nothing. Of those who were allotted land in 1992, some have sold it, and some have passed away. Moreover, the government has already scrapped the truck terminal project at Wadala, so the question of duping anyone doesn't arise."
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. Allotment was done through a lottery system, which was transparent. While the lottery was held for allocation of godowns, any member can purchase multiple office spaces."
The member added that the committee was ready to pay the stamp duty and registration fee, but only after the MMRDA fulfilled its promise of registering the society.
"Today, property rates have touched R1 lakh/sqft. And it is those with vested interests who have accused us of indulging in malpractices. Four buildings are ready, but the MMRDA is yet to issue Occupancy Certificates. It's delaying deliberately, because it wants the plot back," said another BGTA member.
Meet the whistle-blower
Goel is a cancer survivor and a resident of Navi Mumbai. He is one of the oldest members of the BGTA and has been running a transport business for the last three decades. He said he'd made initial payment and even registered documents pertaining to his booking of an 860-sqm plot at WTT in 1992. He hasn't got his right over the property till date, he alleged, adding that BGTA members had fraudulently taken over his property and sold to other members.
Fact of the matter
BGTA was supposed to construct 12 buildings - seven three-storeyed structures, two ground-plus-one buildings and three godowns/warehouses. The land was allotted in phases, the procedure for which 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 work is still pending, despite MMRDA's conditional extension.
BGTA members awaiting office spaces and godowns, as per Goel
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