Mumbai: SRA hands builder same project that got him booked
Developer accused of selling rehabilitation homes in the open market and was named in FIR for cheating buyer gets the project again
Slum-dwellers in Borivli's Rajendra Nagar are disappointed with the Slum Redevelopment Authority (SRA). After making them wait for over 23 years to get a house in a redevelopment project in the area, the body has given the project back to a developer who has been booked for cheating a buyer. The conditional approval was given in March and despite protests from the slum dwellers in the months since SRA has not acted against the developer.
The slum dwellers said the Rajendra Kunj slum redevelopment project was initiated in 1995 but in the decades since, construction of the homes promised to them has remained incomplete.
In 2017, following complaints by society members against developer Rajendra Barde, who is the managing director of the Truly Creative Developer Private Limited, SRA authorities visited the plot and inspected the project.
The Rajendra Kunj slum redevelopment project today. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
During this visit, authorities observed that some of the flats meant for rehabilitating approximately 1,100 slum dwellers were allegedly being sold in the open market as a sale component.
A managing committee member said, "SRA officials prepared a report and filed an FIR with the Kasturba Marg police station. SRA even issued a show-cause notice to the developer, asking why the firm should not be blacklisted and provision of Section 13 (2) of the Slum Act (which deals with changing a developer) should not be initiated against him." Barde has more than one case against him.
A buyer who had booked a flat in the same project had filed a police complaint in 2018 against him. Accordingly, an FIR was registered by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai Police.
Despite all of this, on March 5 this year, SRA gave a go-ahead to the same errant developer to complete the project, which has not gone down too well with the slum dwellers who have been waiting for years to get a permanent home.
Another committee member said, "People have been waiting for over 23 years to get a house. The existing developer has failed to keep his promises and deliver on time. But instead of refraining from appointing the errant builder, SRA asked the same old developer to complete the project; we are sceptical of him. The dreams of hundreds of slum dwellers have been shattered due to SRA's latest order."
The residents have already challenged this order at the High Power Committee. The member added that they are now planning on approaching local political leaders. If negotiations with them bear no fruit either, they will end up boycotting the Assembly elections. mid-day tried to reach out to SRA chief executive officer Deepak Kapoor repeatedly, but he remained unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, when mid-day spoke to Barde, he refuted all the allegations and termed the delay as 'baseless'. He said, "Rival developers want to grab the project and are leaving no stone unturned to malign our image. In fact, the rival group has also taken political and criminal support to throw me out of this project. But so far, they have not succeeded in their goals. I am sure they will not succeed in the future as well."
Upon being asked he had been blacklisted by SRA, Barde claimed that he was not given a hearing in the case while the orders were issued. "I approached the Chief Minister with my grievance. After I met him, SRA issued a notice against me under Section 13 (2) of the Slum Act [which deals with changing the developer]. SRA authorities were convinced with my replies to the notice, following which they issued conditional approval to complete the project," he added.
Barde said the fight between him and other groups that want in on the project has now reached the courtroom. "The other party has approached the court for arbitration. The hearing in the case is scheduled for August 1," he said.
Rajendra Kunj's unending wait
1995: Letter of Intent (LOI) was issued for the project under the Slum Redevelopment Scheme.
2003: Revised LOI issued for the project.
2016: Another revised LOI was issued.
2017: Rajendra Kunj society complained to SRA about flats meant for rehabilitation being allegedly sold as sale component. Accordingly, SRA officials inspected the site and thereafter lodged an FIR with the local police station.
2018: One of the buyers filed a case with EOW. SRA issued show-cause notice and a separate notice under section 13 (2) of Slum Act to Barde.
2019: SRA gave conditional approval to Barde to complete the project.
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