Around 15 years after a “minor modification” in the development control rules (DCR) robbed the city of nearly 400 acres of textile mill land meant for open spaces and affordable homes, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has now ordered a probe into whether builders had surrendered public spaces from the mill lands’ sale.
Fadnavis has ordered a probe into the implementation of the development control regulation (DCR) number 58, which made it mandatory for mill owners wishing to redevelop the defunct mills to surrender one-third of the vacant space for public amenities and open spaces and one-third for affordable housing by Mhada. The earlier rule was that the mill owners would surrender two-thirds of the entire land, which was later changed to two-thirds of only vacant land and not counting the structures of the defunct mills.
In the first criticism by any ruling government of the move, Fadnavis said it wasn’t in the interest of the city.
The rule has a controversial history. The Vilasrao Deshmukh-led government, which had termed it a “minor modification”, had come in for severe flak for the amendment in 2001 because it ended up reducing nearly 400 acres of public spaces to less than 60 acres — nearly 85%. The original DCR 58 had stated how the vacant as well as the occupied area must be divided into three parts, of which two must be used by city agencies for open spaces and cheap homes.
“I don’t know why this decision was made. It was not in the government’s interest, nor was it in the interest of the city and its people. Had it not been for this decision, the city would have got additional land for homes and amenities, which ultimately went to builders,” Fadnavis said.
Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs said many mill owners had not surrendered their share of public spaces.
Fadnavis has now ordered his officials to find out which mill owners have handed over plots to the BMC and Mhada for open spaces and cheaper homes.
“We will probe the entire matter and come up with our findings, after which the rule will be reviewed. We will probe whether there was anything malafide in the whole process and make corrections in the rules, if we find anything wrong,” he said.
Fadnavis, in his written reply, mentioned how the erstwhile Phoenix Mill in Lower Parel had some of the areas reserved for a recreational ground and a school, but they weren’t handed over. “They pointed out how the 1984 DP and the 1991 DP had some differences in the details and hence, they said they will hand over the land when the 2014-’34 DP comes into effect. I don’t know why such a plea was even accepted,” said Fadnavis.
Raising an objection over this, city BJP MLA Ashish Shelar demanded the occupation certificate given to the St Regis Hotel, which has been the most recent construction on the mill land, be revoked. “We will definitely probe into how it got an OC without handing over the plots. We will also inquire into how it was even approved by authorities, despite not handing over the plots,” Fadnavis said.
Leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil demanded the government form a Special Investigative Team (SIT) over the issue. “It’s really sad that when one passes by, one can see how there is such glamour on one side where mills stood and the pitiable condition of mill workers on the other. You must probe into those who benefitted by the sale of such mill lands.”
Fadnavis agreed with Patil and said the entire matter will be probed.