MUMBAI: A 17 acre encroached BMC plot in Worli with a development potential estimated at Rs 8,000 crore has brought two warring builders together.
Lokhandwala Infrastructure and D B Realty, who fought for years over its redevelopment, have now become partners in the project. For the past few months, local civic officials have been carrying out a biometric survey to establish the eligibility of the "slum occupants" of Jijamata Nagar.
The BMC plot is located near E Moses Rd, where property prices are in excess of Rs 40,000 a sq ft.
Both builders were earlier claiming support of a majority of residents for the project. Recently, D B Realty described itself as the "Associates" of Lokhandwala Infrastructure "for the expeditious implementation of the project".
Some local residents accused the BMC of nepotism and granting "illicit pecuniary favour" to the developer. Former municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar had wanted the BMC to invite competitive bids and award the project to the highest bidder instead of allowing a single developer to earn windfall profits.
Kumar had written to the government, demanding that the state discontinue the project since it would only benefit the developer. He suggested that the civic body be allowed to redevelop the property by appointing a builder, who would pay the highest revenue to the corporation. Jijamata Nagar is part of a larger layout which also includes Mata Ramabai Nagar, Vivekanand Nagar and Jivan Jyot.
"My contention was that there is a lot of profit to be made by the builder and it should be shared with the BMC, which owns the land. The builder must be appointed through competitive bids," Kumar told TOI.
D B Realty chairman Vinod Goenka said both the developers had over 80% consent of the people. "The BMC is only verifying the consent we have received from the residents," he said.
"For the past four months, virtually the entire staff of the civic G-south ward office is busy carrying out the biometric survey on behalf of the developer. This, despite the fact that the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) did not renew the letter of intent (LOI) issued to the builder last year," said local activist Raju Pawar.
Mohammed Salim Shaikh, a Jijamata Nagar resident who served a legal notice on the government and BMC, said the civic administration was behaving like a sponsor for the developers. "BMC officers are coaxing the residents to sign in favour of the developers," he said.
SRA CEO Nirmal Deshmukh confirmed that the authority had not renewed the LOI after it lapsed in 2013. "It is for the BMC to implement the scheme,'' he said.
Officials said the BMC cannot carry out the survey without this all-important LOI. "If the project is a slum redevelopment scheme, no process can start without the SRA's nod," one said.
In a February 2013 letter to the SRA, additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota had expressed "surprise" that the SRA issued the LOI without obtaining BMC's approval. "SRA is advised to withdraw the LOI to the developer and await further instructions from BMC, failing which matter will be reported to the higher authority,'' said the letter.
However in July 2014, the BMC gave the go-ahead to its staff to ascertain the consent of slum dwellers in favour of the developer after the matter was discussed with the state government.