Patra Chawl in Mumbai’s Goregaon Back in Focus Post Sanjay Raut’s Arrest, And So Are Hundreds of Middle-income Families

As the ED arrested Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut in connection with a money laundering case linked to alleged irregularities in the redevelopment of Mumbai’s Patrawala chawl, the case brings to the fore the issue of hundreds of middle-income home buyers and over 600 original tenants of the chawl who have been stuck for close to 14 years.

The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) had given a contract for the redevelopment of the Patrawala chawl in Goregaon to Guru Ashish Construction Private Limited (GACPL) in 2008. As per the agreement, Guru Ashish was to redevelop the 47-acre plot, rehabilitate the 672 tenants who lived in the chawl and provide housing for 306 additional tenants to MHADA. 

The remaining land after housing the chawl and additional tenants was sold to nine private developers for ₹901.79 crore. GACPL also launched its own project, Meadows, on the site and collected the booking amount of about ₹138 crore from flat buyers, a report by the Hindustan Times stated. 

‘New CM, Old CM, Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena…As buyers, we don’t care about the politics,’ Digesh Patel, an engineer with the merchant navy who had booked a flat in Meadows, told HT. Patel had paid his first instalment in 2010, and hoped to move into his ‘dream home’ with his family of five by 2014 at the latest. ‘So far, I have invested ₹65 lakh in the house and have nothing to show for it,” the Goregaon resident, who currently lives in a cramped 1 BHK, said. 

According to the 2008 tripartite agreement signed between GACPL, the tenants’ society, and MHADA, GACPL had also committed to paying the rent of the 672 chawl tenants until the redevelopment was complete. They however stopped paying the rent in 2014-15. In mid-2017, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) admitted an application from Union Bank of India to declare GACPL insolvent. In 2018, MHADA issued a termination notice to the developer. The nine developers who had bought the saleable FSI from GACPL  petitioned the Bombay High Court to prevent MHADA from retaking the land from GACPL.

As the case wound up in court, construction on the plot halted, leaving the 672 tenants and 100s of flat-buyers with their fortunes stuck in the lurch.

Businessman Rahul Thakkar, who has been part of the group of flat purchasers at Meadows, and has been leading the charge against GACPL and MHADA told Hindustan Times, “MHADA now alleges GACPL had no right to sell the flats [the saleable FSI] before the MHADA rehab homes were constructed, but what were the MHADA officials doing when the plots were sold to the nine builders and construction on those buildings began? Some of those towers are nearly complete. How can the MHADA officials say that they didn’t know construction was underway?”

Thakkar’s group has made MHADA party to their suit, alleging that the body is a co-conspirator. Sandip Vimadalal, the solicitor representing the group, said, “we are saying that MHADA, a government body whose purpose it is to provide affordable housing, should complete our project and give us our flats. You cannot punish purchasers for the crimes of a builder. Our application is pending hearing and likely to come up on August 29.”

Many of the buildings on the plot are almost completely constructed but flat-buyers have been unable to occupy them due to the case. “I have already paid ₹45 lakh towards interest,” said Dharmesh Padmanabhan who had booked a flat in Ekta Tripolis, one of the buildings on the plot, and expected possession by 2021. The 36-floor building has already been constructed up to its top floor. Padmanabhan has already paid ₹2.5 crore towards the apartment and continues to pay EMIs on a ₹1.7 crore loan from the bank.  “All of this has come to pass because of the apathy of MHADA officials. They are heartless,” he said, adding that he does not blame the builders. 

“Two months ago, when we went to meet Yogesh Mhase at MHADA, there were people in our group of buyers who were in tears over their situation. And yet, we were made to wait for five hours to even see him,” added Padmanabhan. “A month before meeting Mhase we had met the then housing minister Jitendra Awhad and he told us he had instructed MHADA to issue our OC in the next two days.” 

There are 450 buyers in the Meadows project and 600 flats in the three towers of the Ekta Tripolis project of which 450 flats have already been sold. “Unlike me, many of the others have been paying EMIs on these homes for years. There are some who were to get married and move into their new homes here but couldn’t. Marriages broke up as a result. One family I know had hoped to watch their kids grow up in this larger home but those kids are adults now, ready to move out into their own homes,” Thakkar told HT. 

In 2021, the Uddhav Thackeray government had cleared a revival plan for the project, and according to the Government Resolution, MHADA would act as the developer to fund and complete the rehab tenements, pay the displaced tenants rent in the interim, and also complete the pending work on 306 additional MHADA flats. 

The GR also provided for the signing of consent terms with some of the developers so that the high-rises being developed by these builders on the site could be granted Occupancy Certificates, allowing residents to move in. 

 “Construction resumed in March 2020 but the key issues are yet to be settled,” Makarand Parab, secretary of the tenants’ society, said. “Although MHADA has agreed to pay arrears of the transit rent from March 2018, the rent amount has not been finalised. MHADA has proposed a rent of ₹18,000 per month, but this is the amount that the developer GACPL was paying in 2008 when we left our homes. Fourteen years have passed since then, and the figure doesn’t factor in inflation. We expect at least ₹40,000 towards monthly rent,” he added.

MHADA is yet to sign a formal agreement with the tenant’s society. “There was a meeting scheduled to finalise these details when the Maha Vikas Aghadi government collapsed. We can only hope that the new government helps us resolve these issues,” Parab said.

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