Even as Mumbai fares poorly on availability of open spaces, a plot reserved as recreation ground for the public has been shifted onto the podium of an ongoing private redevelopment project.
Housing Minister Prakash Mehta admitted in the Assembly on Tuesday that for an ongoing multi-crore redevelopment project near upscale Juhu, authorities had permitted rehabilitation of almost the entire plot, earmarked as a recreation ground for locals, onto the podium of the private project.
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Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis later issued orders for staying construction for the saleable component of the project, following “allegations of irregularities” raised by both ruling and Opposition legislators.
The controversy pertains to redevelopment of eight low-income housing societies standing on a Mhada-owned layout in DN Nagar near Juhu.
While the initial building permission for the redevelopment project had come in 2006, Mehta admitted that the project was caught in multiple legal wrangles and allegations of wrongdoing.
About 480 families residing in the buildings had initially issued the development rights in favour of one Vaidehi Akash Housing Private Ltd that had entered into a joint venture with construction major Rustomjee Realty Pvt Ltd. Later, the residents’ federation reportedly scrapped the arrangement with Vaidehi Akash and engaged Rustomjee directly for the redevelopment work.
Raising a calling attention motion in the Assembly on Tuesday, Congress MLA Naseem Khan alleged that “there were severe illegalities in the project.” He demanded “immediate action against the developer and authorities” while pointing out that the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) had registered an FIR against the developer.
Mehta, in his reply, admitted that “prima facie, it does seem the project has illegalities. The EOW will be asked to submit a report within 15 days, following which appropriate action would be initiated”.
BJP’s Ashish Shelar demanded an interim stay on construction and action against officials responsible for the alleged lapses. Fadnavis announced that orders for staying construction activity for the saleable component would be issued. He also announced “strict action” on the basis of the EOW report.