More Delay In Dharavi Redevelopment After Tender Is Scrapped
Maharashtra has decided to cancel the tender for redeveloping Dharavi, one of Asia’s biggest slums, further delaying the project conceived more than two decades ago.
“The decision of Committee of Secretaries to call for a new tender by making appropriate amendments in the terms and conditions of the tender was upheld today,” said a press statement released after the meeting of the state cabinet. “If any changes are to be made in the implementation of this proposal, it will be approved by the cabinet.”
The successful bidder, Seclink Technology Corporation, has threatened legal action.
Dharavi, a sprawl of shanties spread over 240 hectares in the prime Central Mumbai area, has a population of more than eight lakh and over 13,000 small businesses. The slum came into the spotlight recently after the Covid-19 outbreak threatened to spiral in the area, but was controlled by local health authorities.
The plan to give slum-dwellers homes was first mooted by architect Mukesh Mehta in 1997 and the Maharashtra government issued regulations for its redevelopment 16 years ago.
In October 2018, state government invited tenders and received two bids. A consortium of three firms led by Seclink—and backed by the royal family offices of Dubai and Bahrain, and with four Indians as directors—outbid Adani Infrastructure for the project.
According to the terms, Seclink was supposed to receive the letter of award by Feb. 7, 2019. But it delayed as the state government sought opinion of the advocate general after the government acquired 45 acres of land at Rs 1,000 crore from the Indian Railways in adjoining Matunga to build transit camps for slum dwellers.
“Following the feedback given by the advocate general, the committee of secretaries had decided to cancel the tender process,”, the cabinet statement said.
It is a sad day for Dharavi residents who have been waiting for almost 16 years for redevelopment and the recent Covid- 19 crisis has added more financial burden, Nilang Shah, chairman and managing director, Seclink Group said.
“Despite requesting repeatedly, no official meetings have been held with us to understand our project vision which clearly meant that the government's intent was to sabotage the bid process,” Shah said. “We will have no option but to take legal recourse including international arbitration as per Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between the U.A.E. and India.”
Local residents are unhappy. For 16 years, the government has played this “game of redevelopment with us”, Rajendra Korde, president of the Dharavi Redevelopment Committee, said over the phone. “The residents are completely disappointed. Why is the government just scrapping the tender, let them scrap the entire project.”