Corporate Oct 18, 2011
By Krishnaraj Rao, Canary Trap. Special to Firstpost
Shortly before Ratnakar Gaikwad became the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, he used his discretionary powers as Metropolitan Commissioner of MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) to gift this city's builders upto Rs 640 crore of taxpayers' money.
That is a conservative estimate of the amount of unfinished construction work that the builders owed this city, which Gaikwad wrote off; the actual amount is likely to be well over Rs 1,000 crore, according to insiders.
Documents sourced through the Right to Information Act (RTI) by activist Sulaiman Bhimani show that former Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai Swadheen Kshatriya acquiesced in this, enabling MMRDA to write off several contractual obligations of about 25 builders involved in 32 slum rehabilitation (SRA) sites. These obligations include installing street lights, drainage, sewer connections and water supply.
Fulfilling these obligations would, for example, have cost RNA Builders at least Rs 20 crore per site, based on calculations on one available estimate made by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).
If this estimate of unfulfilled obligations is extended to the several reputed builders who got away with 32 half-finished relief and rehabilitation (R&R) projects, also known as SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) projects, the sums written off would be at least Rs 640 crore. SRA projects are also referred to as project affected people's (PAP) colonies.
These builders had a contract with MMRDA to provide standard on-site and off-site infrastructure while building these SRA projects. Their contract included providing internal roads, storm-water drains, water-supply lines, adequate sewage pipes, etc. (For reference see points marked red on page 15-16 of agreement with RNA Corp. (a.k.a. Skyline Developer) in Somani Gram, Oshiwara, Goregaon West).
MMRDA's Agreement with RNA builders
While formally handing over 32 projects to MCGM for maintenance, MMRDA noted that there were several "problems", including insufficient numbers of light poles (or no light poles) provided by builders, lack of connections to sewage lines, inadequate diameter of sewage pipes fitted, etc. (MMRDA acknowledges that in half a dozen projects, some necessary details, such as plan layouts and the exact numbers of residential tenements are also not available!)
In his letter, Ratnakar Gaikwad said that MMRDA would provide funds required by MCGM for upgrading the infrastructure "if MCGM find existing infrastructure inadequate/inefficient as per their norms/standards". (Read Gaikwad's formal handing-over letter to Kshatriya, and the accompanying table, which lists problems as per MMRDA. Significant parts of the documents are marked in red).
32 unfinished R&R sites handed over by MMRDA to MCGM
The above file also has MCGM's follow-up action in response to this handing over. MCGM undertook a joint inspection of site no 24 of the list, called Oshiwara ODC (RNA). MMRDA officials failed to turn up at this inspection, where MCGM's officials found problems far in excess of the table.
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