By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Feb 3 (IANS): As the Adani Group battles its current crisis on multiple fronts, the Maharashtra Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT) and residents of Dharavi on Thursday raised questions over the fate of the ambitious redevelopment project for Asia's biggest slum.
In end-November 2022, the state government had finalised Adani Properties Ltd.'s bid to invest Rs 5,069 crore in the Dharavi redevelopment mega project.
At that time, the Metropolitan Commissioner of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), S.V.R. Srinivas, had said that the proposal would be sent for the state government's approval, a special purpose vehicle would be formed, and if all goes well, "the project shall kick-start by February 2023".
When his reactions were sought again on Thursday, Srinivas said that he would not like to comment on the matter right now, "maybe after 2-3 days".
However, state Congress General Secretary Sachin Sawant feels that all is not well considering the nosediving of Adani Group shares and its probable cascading effect on the Indian economy.
"The Maharashtra government must clarify its stand on the Dharavi redevelopment project. Will it allow the fate of lakhs of people to be connected to a company whose fate itself seems to be in jeopardy," Sawant asked.
Shiv Sena (UBT) national spokesperson Kishore Tiwari claimed that the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was 'deliberately toppled' (in June 2022) so that the Adani Group could be given various big projects.
"Why just Dharavi? What about the future of the Navi Mumbai International Airport and other major projects which have been given to the Adani Group? The Centre and the Maharashtra government must immediately clarify and cancel the allotments," Tiwari demanded.
The Dharavi Rehabilitation Committee (DRC) representing the local residents is virtually panicking over the fast-paced developments in the financial sector which are grabbing gloomy headlines daily.
"The Adani Group's reliability and credibility is now in serious doubt... We feel that they may not be able to take up and complete this project on time. So, we are asking the Maharashtra government to re-tender it and give it to another party," DRC President Raju Korde told IANS.
A meeting of the DRC shall be held later on Thursday night to finalise the strategy, besides writing to the state government to call for re-bids and award the project to a financially sound investor or consortium, he added.
In fact, in mid-January, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had brought the Dharavi revamp proposal to the global centre-stage in Davos, where he extolled it as "the largest public-private-partnership (PPP) real estate programme for slum redevelopment".
Terming it as an "environment-friendly project", Shinde had said that around 56,000 families would be rehabilitated there with free homes of 300 sq ft to each slum-dweller there", wowing an influential audience at the World Economic Forum held in the ski-resort in Switzerland.
With an estimated timeline of around 15 years, the project - bedeviled by many problems and failed attempts for a makeover for over 15 years - will see construction of over 10 million sq ft, giving a total face-lift to the 520-acre locality.
Dharavi - literally meaning 'quicksand' - is notorious as the dirty underbelly of Mumbai, housing over 10 lakh people crammed into a 2.1 sq km corner. But it is supposed to transform itself from an ugly duckling to a glittering district with swank buildings, wide roads, residential and commercial areas, schools, hospitals, gardens, playgrounds etc. planned there.