The Gujarat High Court has admitted a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the ongoing redevelopment of the demolished Sanjaynagar slums, adjoining the Vishwamitri River, on Mangal Pandey Road in Vadodara. The PIL, filed by Congress vice-president and advocate Shailesh Amin and five other party leaders from the city, seeks direction from the HC to declare the development project handed out to M/s Manav Infrastructure by the VMC under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) as illegal and unconstitutional for being “against public interest”. The HC has sought the reply from the government pleader in the next hearing on June 9.
The PIL lists the alleged violations in the project, including the proposed construction of a sprawling mall, named Agora-2 by the developer’s subsidiary firm Balaji Group, which is yet to be approved by the VMC. The PIL contends that the ten respondents, including the state government, VMC, Vadodara district collector, Mukhyamantri Gruh Yojana Cell, Union Ministry of Water Resources and the builder are in collusion to encroach government land for commercial exploitation “under the guise of slum rehabilitation”. It seeks HC intervention in the alleged encroachment into the swamp of the Vishwamitri River by the developer, who has constructed a retention wall to reclaim the swamp.
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The PIL states that although the land allotted to Manav Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. as per the orders and possession receipt measures 44,010 square meters, the development permission is granted for land measuring 46,222 square meters. “Therefore, outright there is excess land of at least 2212 square meters and the same is government land falling within Vishwamitri river and its embankment area. The said area in square feet is at least and approximately 23,810 square feet. Therefore, it is evident and apparent that large chunk of government land and that too of river and its embankment, a natural resource, at least and approximately admeasuring 23,810 square feet is usurped,” the petition states.
The PIL contends that although the slum rehabilitation policy under the PPP model requires the developer to give priority to the reconstruction of the homes for displaced families, the authorities have allowed the builder to reserve three quarter portion of the prime property for his commercial gains. The petition states, “Out of the same, the construction under the the Chief Minister’s Housing Scheme and Slum Rehabilitation Policy is only for 11,456.65 square meters. If the same is considered, it is less than one-fourth area of the entire land allotted to Manav Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. Therefore, from the same, it becomes evident and apparent that by allotting land under the the Chief Minister’s Housing Scheme and Slum Rehabilitation Policy, three-fourth of the land is frittered away to the the developer for commercial exploitations, use and construction and consequently monetary benefits. The same also cannot be justified under the CM’s Housing Scheme Slum Rehabilitation Policy.”
“Last week, over four months after the Ahmedabad-based developer began advertising a mall, a multiplex and luxury homes on the site of the Sanjaynagar redevelopment, the VMC issued a notice in local newspapers to “clarify” its stand on the issue and help “public perception” about the facts of the project. In the rare 16-point “clarification”, the VMC stated that it had “not granted any permission for the construction of a multiplex or any commercial activity at the spot”, but explained that the project can be permitted commercial construction with FSI 3 on the existing 18-meter road. The VMC awarded the project to redevelop the 4.27 lakh square feet land to Manav Infrastructure on June 13, 2014 for a net premium amount of Rs 21 crore, after deducting the construction cost of Rs 35.89 crore for 771 flats of around 300 sq feet to rehabilitate displaced families and also 11 shops that were removed from Sanjaynagar. The group subsequently put up hoardings for luxury homes, and a mall with multiplex on-site advertising luxurious 2, 2.5, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments, a mall with a multiplex, a bowling alley, spas and restaurants. On the hoardings along the boundary of the plot, there is no mention of the MGY project. The MGY hoarding, in fact, stands tucked away at the far back with a separate approach path.