Firm moves Bombay HC seeking ₹10,000-crore in damages from Maharashtra govt for cancelling Dharavi revamp project tender
Seclink Technology Corporation (STC) moved the high court for the state’s decision to cancel the tender, wherein STC emerged as the highest bidder. It has also moved the International Court of Arbitration at Geneva on the same grounds.
Seclink Technology Corporation (STC), a United Arab Emirated-based firm and the highest bidder for the ₹28,500-crore Dharavi redevelopment project whose tender was scrapped recently, has filed a suit in the Bombay high court (HC) seeking damages of ₹10,000 crore from the Maharashtra government for its decision to cancel the tender.
STC has also moved the International Court of Arbitration at Geneva on the same grounds. STC contended that it was forced to approach the HC and the Arbitration Court due to the injustice meted on it. “We were the highest bidders when the tender was opened in 2019 and should have been rightfully awarded the contract. We had kept aside ₹28,572 crore in our escrow account which has been lying in there from the two years. We could have deployed this fund elsewhere,” said a spokesperson of the STC who did not want to be named.
“We were denied the opportunity on flimsy grounds for which we have sought the compensation,” he added.
Another reason for this move was the new tender which tailor-made to deprive them of the project, he alleged. “The upcoming tender is being manipulated to ensure that the favoured company gets the project,” he said.
In February 2019, STC emerged as the highest bidder to transform India’s largest slum pocket outbidding Adani Infrastructure and Developers Private Limited. STC had quoted ₹7,200 crore while its competitor Adani Infrastructure and Developers Pvt Ltd had bid at ₹4,539 crore. STC’s problem began when the then Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government decided to use railway land near Dharavi for rehabilitation of slum-dwellers and to acquire it by paying ₹800 crore to the railways. The State government sought the AG’s views as the railway land was an added component to the project and as such it changed the project specifications.
AG Ashutosh Kumbhakoni advised that fresh tenders needed to be called for, as the costs of the railway land and rehabilitation was added later and not incorporated in the original tender document. However, the government changed by then. The AG’s opinion was accepted by the Uddhav Thackeray-led government which cancelled the tender and is in the process of issuing fresh one.
STC has assailed the state for cancelling the project on the railway land issue. “We had agreed to pay the state three times the amount — ₹2,400 crore — for this railway land, but our pleas fell on deaf ears as they wanted to snatch the project from us,” said the spokesperson.
State housing minister Jitendra Awhad said he was unaware of any case being filed in the Dharavi issue. “I am unaware of any such suit being filed by Seclink. I will get the details from our officials,” said Awhad.
The development has added another chapter to Dharavi makeover project which is stuck for almost two decades now.
Pankaj Kapoor, managing director of Liases Foras, a real estate research firm, said the whole project is flawed and unlikely to succeed. “Dharavi is a mini-township with a bustling cottage industry. Majority of the Dharavi residents work in this place itself and this aspect is being ignored. The whole focus is on constructing a concrete township instead of ensuring their livelihood,” said Kapoor.
The Dharavi revamp project commenced on February 4, 2004, but has been marred with controversies with one of the key issues being the eligibility for the redeveloped flats, as it was found that majority of the present residents did not qualify for new houses. The constant flip-flops by the successive governments have only caused large scale hardships to the local population.
The state intends to revamp 601 acres of Dharavi and plans to rehouse 59,165 residents in plush new houses.