Mhada blow to beneficiaries of 39 prime plots in Mumbai

MHADA has decided to cancel the allotment of 39 plots given to prominent personalities and trusts and use the land to provide affordable housing to residents of Mumbai.

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In a landmark decision, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) has decided to cancel the allotment of 39 plots given to prominent personalities and trusts and use the land to provide affordable housing to residents of Mumbai. The land was disbursed under the Land Disposal regulation 16 of the MHADA Act during the tenure of former chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde.

Satish Gavai, MHADA vice-president and CEO, confirmed the development. “We will soon start the process of developing affordable houses,” he said.

Sixty-eight plots spread over 20 hectares of land were allotted at a negligible rate by a state government sub-committee comprising Congress and NCP ministers. Of these, 52 were sanctioned during Deshmukh’s tenure and 15 when Shinde was chief minister. The beneficiaries included politicians, builders, bureaucrats, housing societies and trusts controlled by Congress and NCP ministers.

The preferential allotment of land meant for public housing and amenities was stopped by the Bombay high court in April 2004. Thirty-nine cases are still pending. The property has since remained with the beneficiaries and has not been developed all these years.

BJP leader Vinod Tawade wrote to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, seeking details about the plots allotted by his predecessors. A report prepared by the Mumbai Housing and Area Development Board said rules were amended to facilitate the state to disburse the plots meant for affordable housing or social amenities like schools and hospitals to charitable trusts.

In one such case, a 10,000 sq mt plot in Oshiwara meant for a
hospital was given to the Nargis Dutt Trust.

Congress MP Priya Dutt is a trustee of the Nargis Dutt Trust.

A 2009 CAG report slammed the deal, saying it was meant to benefit the trust. The report said after the trust was sanctioned land in 2000, it insisted on being charged a rent of Rs1 per year for 99 years. The allotment was finally made in December 2007 at a concessional rate of Rs21 crore. This was reduced to Rs11 crore following a request from the trust. MHADA is yet to receive its dues from the trust.

In another case, the housing authority lodged an FIR against the owner of Bhaskar Garage for encroachment of land in a prime location in Juhu. Ironically, the same plot was allotted to Bhaskar Garage by the sub-committee.

Many plots were allotted to educational institutes controlled by Congress and NCP ministers. These included Rahebar Foundation (NCP MLA Nawab Malik’s wife and sister are trustees), Congress MLA Madhukar Chavan’s Raigad Military School and cabinet minister Jayant Patil’s Kasegaon Education Society. Malik and Patil were part of the sub-committee while Chavan was then MHADA chairman.

The Madhya Pradesh Mitra Charitable Trust was allotted a 6,032 sq mt plot in Goregaon for just Rs40 lakh to build a school and playground. The trust divided the plot into two and sub-leased it to two private firms that went on to construct on the portion meant for the playground. A petition filed in the Bombay high court last year revealed that the trust earns Rs2.5 crore as annual rent from one of the plots sub-leased to a school.

MHADA will now retrieve such plots and create a land bank to create affordable housing projects. It even plans to purchase land from private owners at the ready reckoner or market rate. Former chairperson of the Mumbai board Amarjit Singh Manhas has welcomed the decision and said he had discussed the issue during the board meetings. He said he even wrote to the state, asking it to cancel long pending cases under regulation 16 as that land can be used for affordable housing.

The advocate general in 2004 ruled that if beneficiaries have not paid their dues or if the lease deed has not been executed and the land has remained undeveloped for years, such cases can be treated as cancelled. CM Vachasundar, MHADA’s legal advisor, said a petition was filed with the Bombay high court and following its ruling, the state issued a GR saying there cannot be any direct disbursement of land.

MHADA must now release an advertisement in newspapers at least three times if it wants to sell the land. If it does not get a response, the plots can be reserved to be disbursed under lottery system by the state.

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