Dharavi revamp: Seclink says delay has upset global investors

MUMBAI : Even as the frontrunner for the redevelopment of Asia’s largest slum claimed that the Maharashtra government appears set to call for fresh tenders for the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, a committee of secretaries on Monday referred the matter to Maharashtra’s Advocate General (AG) for a legal opinion. On Monday, following a meeting of the committee of secretaries, Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta forwarded the file on awarding the contract for the project to AG Ashutosh Kumbhakoni.

Seclink, a consortium of firms backed by the Dubai royal family, told  that there could be a diplomatic fallout if the project is tendered out afresh. The consortium said the delay is a matter of concern to its international investors. In June last year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had met members of the Dubai royal family while on a visit there and had discussed the subject of redevelopment of Dharavi.

Seclink emerged as the frontrunner in February after the last round of tendering for the Rs 28,000-crore project. The only other company in the fray was the Adani Group.

“Even after finishing as the frontrunner in the bids, the state government is delaying the awarding of the contract to us. The delay is creating a negative image of the country,” a spokesperson for Seclink told The Indian Express. He added that the consortium would not hesitate to litigate if fresh tenders are called for the long-delayed project to tear down Asia’s largest slum and rehouse the approximately 68,000 families residing there.

A source in the state’s Dharavi Redevelopment Authority said the delay in awarding the contract was on account of the time-consuming process of acquiring nearly 45 acres of Railway-owned land to be included in the project area. Seclink has contended that the issue of acquisition of railway land had already been decided in a pre-bid meeting on December 13, 2018, with bidders told that the cost of acquisition of this land would be borne by the Special Purpose Vehicle that is awarded the contract. The spokesperson said Seclink had already given its written consent to the clause regarding the cost of acquiring these 45 acres located in Matunga.

Last month however, the state government directed the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) to raise Rs 800 crore for this land. The state directed that MHADA would raise Rs 200 crore, SRA Rs 300 crore while Rs 300 crore would be raised by dipping into MHADA’s Niwara Fund, meant for creating housing stock for economically weaker sections.

Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, is situated in the heart of Mumbai, barely a few hundred metres from one of the world’s most expensive business districts, Bandra Kurla Complex. Seclink finished ahead in the tendering with a quote of Rs 7,200 crore while the Adani Group quoted Rs 4,539 crore.