Sanjaynagar slum redevelopment: Developer woos influential Sindhi community with ‘goodwill’ dinner

Locals led by a priest Friday filed a police complaint against the developer for hurting their religious sentiments by demolishing a temple in the compound.

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara | Published: April 10, 2016 3:51 am
The site of the Sanjaynagar slum redevelopment project in Vadodara Saturday. Bhupendra Rana The site of the Sanjaynagar slum redevelopment project in Vadodara Saturday. Bhupendra Rana

The builder for the Sanjaynagar slum redevelopment project, meant for the rehabilitation of the 771 displaced families, has not yet got the clearance from the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) for a proposed mall at the site, but it’s not stopped the realtor to advertise the mall in a big way. While big hoardings advertising the mall, Agora-2, have been in place at the site for some time, on Saturday, Balaji Group, the builder, in an apparent “marketing strategy” to woo the influential Sindhis, hosted a gala dinner for them as a “goodwill gesture” to mark the community’s New Year, Cheti Chand. Incidentally, locals led by a priest Friday filed a police complaint against the developer for hurting their religious sentiments by demolishing a temple in the compound.

The bhajan sandhya preceding the dinner on Saturday saw a massive portion of the 4.27-lakh sq-feet land being adorned with countless tall vase centerpieces of red roses and colourful gladiolus flowers, around the seating arrangement placed against the backdrop of the ongoing far-end construction for the redevelopment of the 22 towers for slum rehabilitation. The event saw the presence of selected invitees of the Sindhi community, one of the city’s most influential business communities. The developer’s executives sent out personal invitations through phone calls and text messages for the event, organised by the Global Sindhi Council, followed by a gala dinner by Balaji Construction (Manav Infrastructure).

The developer is awaiting Town Planning clearance of the proposed Agora-2 Mall at the site, which requires a minimum road width of 24 metres as per the existing GDCR guidelines. The width of Mangal Pandey Road, adjoining the mall, however, is only 18 metre. VMC officials said that the objections of residents to the proposals are currently under scrutiny.

Balaji Group chairman Ashish Sharma, however, denied that the dinner was a marketing strategy. “The Sindhi community approached us, stating that they wished to organise a bhajan evening on our plot. They asked us to sponsor the dinner and we agreed as part of our goodwill. This is in no way a marketing strategy for the mall or my attempt to entice the business community. Soon, I will also have a Navkar mantra event for the Jain community that is equally big in business. That does not make it my strategy. When the marketing strategy launches for Agora-2 the world will see.”

Asked if the proposed mall project had received VMC clearance, Shah said, “We have not yet got the clearance as our deal with the VMC to construct the slum houses states that we can seek clearance for our commercial activity once 33% of the construction of slum redevelopment is complete. We are almost there as we have already raised the slab of the 22 Mukhyamantri Gruh Yojana (MGY) towers to the second storey. Within 10 days, we will launch our campaign for our private project.”

Shah rejected the allegations of the priest and the Congress that have approached police, demanding a probe into the demolition of a 90-year-old temple on the plot. He said, “The VMC got the land from the government for the project in November last year. According to the PPP deal, I am free to remove all encroachments. Whatever has been removed has been done with authorities’ approval. There is no question of any illegal activity.”

The Sanjaynagar redevelopment, under the MGY scheme of Gujarat government, has been ridden with controversies regarding the construction of a retention wall by the developer, reclaiming the land of the Vishwamitri River swamp that runs along the plot. The plot will house 22 MGY towers, nine luxurious towers with a central activity area and a sprawling mall overlooking the Mangal Pandey Road.

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