Two and a half months after taking back a plot along the beach at Girgaum Chowpatty from water sports company H2O over outstanding rent arrears, the Maharashtra government is now in the process of auctioning the seized boats belonging to the company.
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H2O, managed by Drishti Adventure Sports Pvt Ltd, had reportedly run up dues to the tune of Rs 2.4 crore since 2013, senior government officials said.
The collector’s office, which owns the 500 sq m plot, had originally leased it to the MTDC in 1994 for an annual rate of Re 1 to promote water sports. The tourism corporation, in turn, sub-let the facility to Drishti Adventure Sports Pvt Ltd, which manages H2O, in 2001.
According to senior government officials, the state took back the stretch on the southern side of Girgaum Chowpatty on September 29. The MTDC is now in possession of the land. H2O and MTDC have been locked in several disputes.
Until the termination of the lease, officials said, H2O was to pay Rs 10 lakh as a monthly rent barring the time between June and September when boats were not allowed to go into the sea. In 2001, when the company first took the land on rent, the amount was Rs 3.83 lakh.
The government has recovered only Rs 21 lakh so far, which was deposited by Drishti group in 2005, officials said.
“We recently got the valuation done of the boats that H2O used. About 20 of them total up to Rs 10 lakh. The boats are old and heavily depreciated. We will move to auction the boats and recover Rs 10 lakh, after which we will have a more precise amount of the outstanding amount that Drishti Adventure Sports owes us,” said a senior government official.
The officials said a new jetty was expected to be set up at the site to promote water sports along with amphibious plane and bus projects.
Rajiv Somani, one of the main partners of the Drishti Group, said he was very hurt and dejected by the way the Maharashtra government treated him. “I have done my part…I have paid the government Rs 15 crore in 15 years and this is how they treat me…I feel dejected. I am very upset,” said Somani.
He added that the government would face legal consequences if it auctioned his property, terming it “an absolute illegal act”.
“This is a great example by the Maharashtra government of how they do tourism. First, we lure people for tourism and then this is how they treat us,” Somani added.
On April 30 this year, Drishti group filed a claim of Rs 2.7 crore to the MTDC for loss of business.
“Our outstanding amount is only Rs 1.5 crore, which is the money we did not pay MTDC when we were closed for business,” Somani said.