Urging Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray not to call for a re-tender for the Dharavi redevelopment project, a committee of local residents has said the contract instead be given to the lowest bidder of the earlier tender so that work could start soon.
Spread over 2.4 sq km, Dharavi, which is home to over 60,000 families, is Asia’s largest slum. While the redevelopment has been on every political party’s agenda since 2004, it has failed to take off so far.
In a letter to Uddhav dated July 11, the committee has mentioned that former CM Devendra Fadnavis had asked for the opinion of the state advocate general (AG) on whether to go for re-tendering after the government purchased a 45-acre railway plot in Matunga that was eventually included in the project area. The AG had gone on to recommend calling for a fresh bid.
“…Since then the matter has been pending and the government should look into it and start the project, which is stuck for the last 16 years,” the letter said.
In November 2018, then Devendra Fadnavis government had approved a new model for the slum’s redevelopment. In the global bidding process that followed, Dubai-based infrastructure firm SECLINK Technologies Corporation (STC) had emerged as the top bidder, having committed to an upfront capital investment of Rs 7,100 crore for the Rs 26,000-crore revamp plan.
On March 8, 2019, the Dharavi Redevelopment Project Authority, a state-run special purpose vehicle, had even issued a Letter of Intimation (LOI) recognising STC as the topmost bidder and declared the government’s intention of awarding the contract to the firm.
But there has been little progress since then with the government seeking legal opinion on whether the tendering process itself had been vitiated due to the Railways handing over the 45-acre plot for the project. The only other bidder in the tender was the Adani Group.
Dharavi Redevelopment Committee president Raju korde said, “Six months have passed but the project is not progressing. We are requesting the CM to speed up the project, which is now crucial due in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
When contacted, STC Chairman Nilang Shah said, “We have been patiently waiting for 18 months for the Letter of Award and have engaged positively with the new government. International bidders are lured by the ease of doing business here and then face bureaucratic hurdles after winning the bid… Logically, there was no need to seek AG opinion. We also have serious concerns on the timing of the AG opinion… it came after the (2019 state Assembly) elections when there was no government in power.”
Speaking in the Assembly earlier, Fandnavis had said that the AG’s opinion was asked to check the sanctity of the tender after the land purchase.
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