The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is set to take back possession of a 21,348-square foot plot in Bandra that was allotted to Sunil Gavaskar Cricket Foundation Trust (SGCFT) three decades ago to set up an indoor cricket academy.
MHADA vice-president and chief executive officer Milind Mhaiskar told The Indian Express that the Authority has approached the government for termination of the arrangement with Gavaskar’s foundation.
“The allotment of the land was made over 31 years ago. But the construction work (for the academy) is yet to commence. We’ve sent a proposal to the state government for resumption of the land,” Mhaiskar said.
Despite several calls and text messages, Gavaskar could not be contacted for a comment.
According to official records, MHADA had leased the open land near Rangsharda Auditorium in Bandra Reclamation to SGCFT to set up the academy. The terms and conditions of the allotment were revised in 1999, 2002, and 2007, but the foundation is yet to carry out any construction, officials said.
On December 24, Gavaskar had called on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence, Matoshree. While the details of the meeting remain unknown, former Maharashtra minister and local legislator Ashish Shelar, who is also a former president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, referred to the meeting in a letter to Thackeray on December 27, in which he justified MHADA’s action.
“I’m writing to you in regard of the land allotment and the recent meeting of Shri Sunil Gavaskar with your kindself,” Shelar wrote to the CM. “At various times since the allotment of the land, Shri Gavaskar has sought relaxations and concessions in the terms and conditions of the allotment, which has been granted by the government. Despite this, no lease agreement has been signed, nor have steps been taken to protect the land (against encroachments).
“We are immensely proud of Gavaskar’s cricketing achievements and would like Mumbai and the country to benefit from his immense wisdom, but given the extraordinary delay of three decades since the allotment and the non utilisation, I would appreciate if MHADA goes forward with its decision for ensuring the utilisation of the plot for setting up of a cricket academy.”
Under the conditions of allotment, SGCFT was supposed to initiate construction work within three months of allotment, and finish it within three years. “This was the basic condition. Despite several extensions, the trust has failed to comply with it,” a senior official said.
According to the terms of the agreement, the government had agreed to give the plot on a 60-year lease, and SGCFT was required to build and run on a no-profit, no-loss basis, various facilities including a health club, fitness centre, gymnasium, swimming pool, squash court and a residential complex for players, besides setting up an indoor cricket training academy.
Subsequently, the government had permitted the trust to commercially exploit a portion of the plot on a condition that the profits earned would be shared with MHADA on a 50:50 basis. The trust was permitted to raise finances from external sources.
In 2011, MHADA, after receiving complaints of encroachment on the plot, had initiated action against SGCFT, proposing to resume the lease of the land.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed that former India manager Lalchand Rajput, who is currently the head coach of Zimbabwe, has approached them for the land to set up a cricket training academy.
Mhaiskar, however, indicated that till such time that the agency resumes the land from SGCFT, it cannot undertake to permit any other activity on the site.