In a blow to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) in the Sanjay Nagar Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana scheme, which is shrouded in controversy, the Gujarat High Court has directed the civic body to refrain from granting building permission to the contractor until a decision is reached on the matter.
“The corporation (VMC) is directed to maintain status quo in the case until next hearing (April 11),” the court stated.
The High Court is hearing a PIL filed by Vadodara-based activist Kalpesh Patel who has contended that a part of the land on which the houses will be constructed as part of the scheme is reserved for the ‘bhikshuk community’ by the state government and therefore cannot be used for construction by the VMC.
“Till date, the land has not been given by the state government to the District Collector or by the District Collector to the VMC. Therefore, the VMC has no right to issue a tender to develop this land for any kind of construction,” the petition stated.
The petitioner has also questioned the validity of the tender, which was floated in 2016-17 and is under scanner after the VMC Commissioner Vinod Rao issued a notice to the contractor for irregularities in the tender. According to the petitioner, Narayan Realty, a respondent in the petition, had originally filled up the tender as a lead bidder. The bid stated that Sai Ruchi is the technical partner of Narayan Realty and a joint venture was shown in April 2017.
“But the joint venture has to be a registered document which it was not. That is the first breach of conditions. Narayan Realty also showed his share in the joint venture as 51 per cent, while Sai Ruchi’s as 49 per cent,” said lawyer K V Shelat, whose firm is representing the petitioner.
The petition contends that the VMC approved the tender despite the fact that a larger share of the tender deposit was paid by Sai Ruchi, which is evidence that “Narayan Realty was not even in a financial position to complete the formality”. Further, the petition challenges the recommendation made by consultancy firm, WAPCOS, to award the contract, overlooking the requirements and breaches.
“The VMC issued an letter of agreement. In June, they produced another joint venture saying that the earlier JV stands cancelled as Narayan Realty will now have only 15 per cent share and Sai Ruchi will have 85 per cent share. It is a breach of contract as the law clearly states that this is ground to disqualify the builder. The VMC, however, took its time to issue the notice. In view of this breach, the VMC has no other option but to cancel the tender,” Shelat said.
Residents protest, say VMC’s rental cheques bounced
Beneficiaries of the Sanjay Nagar scheme protested at the site of the housing scheme, chanting slogans against the VMC as they alleged that the cheques handed out to them towards the monthly rental disbursement last week had bounced. While VMC officials denied the allegations and banks are yet to issue a confirmation, hundreds of residents gathered at the office of the developer on Thursday. VMC sources said that the families had been issued the cheques on March 16, a day ahead of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s visit to Vadodara.