Two days before the model code of conduct for elections in Mumbai, Thane and other local bodies in Maharashtra came into force, the Devendra Fadnavis government went on an overdrive to roll out Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet low-cost housing initiative— The Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (PMAY)— in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
Watch What Else is Making News
Tenders worth Rs 2,978 crore were floated for building homes for the economically weaker and the low income segments at six proposed construction sites in the region.
While the tenders for these sites were first floated last October, the Fadnavis government had been forced to stay its execution after irregularities were noticed in the tender.
While the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) had floated these tenders, the state’s housing department had raised a red flag against it after a construction major wrote to the chief minister, complaining that the tender conditions were“designed to favour a specific contractor.”
Top sources confirmed to The Indian Express that the contentious conditions have been done away with in the new tender notice published on January 9. The code of conduct kicked in on January 11.
Another major irregularity raised was that the previous tenders were issued without the Mhada being in physical possession of even an inch of the land required for the construction activity.
Keen to roll out the flagship scheme before the code of conduct was in place, bureaucrats in various government departments worked in tandem to ensure that the possession of the six construction sites was handed over to the Mhada on January 9 itself.
“We issued the fresh tender notice immediately after the land grants for these six sites were allotted to Mhada,” confirmed Mhada’s Vice President S S Zende.
Incidentally, the original tender had included a total of 11 construction sites near Mumbai. These included plots in MMR’s Kalyan (five sites), Thane (one site), Karjat (one), Vasai (two), Khalapur (one), and in Konkan’s Raigad (one).
Top sources said that it was decided to defer tenders for the sites in Vasai, Karjat, and Khalapur— all situated in green zones— since the mandatory locational clearance from the Centre’s Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee for PMAY was pending.
On November 4, Thane Collector Mahendra Kalyankar had written to Maharashtra Principal Secretary (Revenue) Manukumar Shrivastav in respect of the remaining seven construction sites contending that these plots had either been allocated to some other government agencies or had been marked for a designated purpose other than low-cost homes.
But after deliberations, Shrivastav’s office issued orders on January 9 directing the Collector to grant “advance possession” of six of the seven plots to Mhada for the flagship scheme.
The land not immediately allotted is a land parcel in Thane’s Khoni, which has already been demanded by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority for the “development of the growth centre.”
With the Maharashtra Cabinet approving a legislation validating transaction or transfer of grazing land across the state on December 26, another hurdle was crossed.
Some of the land identified for construction in the Thane district had been designated as grazing lands.
Zende said that a total of 32,744 homes (27,496 for economically weaker sections, 5,248 for low income segment) are proposed to be built on a turnkey basis at these six sites. Zende also informed that the Mhada has also commenced the tendering process for 20 others sites in Nagpur, Aurangabad, and Pune for construction of another 13,000 odd houses.
Under the PMAY, the Mhada has identified 43 land parcels so far where it plans to build 55,000 homes. The state government has adopted a “technology neutral” approach for building the new homes. The earlier condition that gave higher technical weightage to contractors with previous experience in government mass housing projects has been done away with, confirmed sources.