The government of Maharashtra has scrapped the earlier tender to redevelop Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum in the heart of the country’s financial capital and is now planning to invite fresh bids for the project that has been in the making for the last 16 years.
The move is likely to result in further delay given the legal expected entanglement as Seclink Technologies, funded by the royal families of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, which had emerged as the highest bidder, is planning to seek legal recourse. Dharavi Redevelopment Committee (DRC), a federation of 52 associations of residents, is also planning to move the court against the decision.
Seclink had emerged as the highest bidder with its bid of over $1 billion for the project to redevelop the slum spread over 600 acres, following the global bids invited by the government in 2018. However, the project had not taken off until now. Following the delay in awarding the project, Seclink had written to the state government seeking compensation in January, arguing that the delay, since it was issued the letter of intent (LoI) on March 8, 2019, was costing it. Seclink is now looking at seeking international arbitration in this matter.
“Despite requesting repeatedly, no official meetings have been held with us to understand our project vision which clearly meant that the government’s intent was to sabotage the bid process. We will have no option but to take legal recourse including international arbitration as per Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between UAE and India,” said Nilang Shah, CMD, Seclink Group. The new bids are likely to be invited by combining the 45-acre railway land parcel in central Mumbai adjoining the slum pocket. The addition of this plot to the project had resulted in delay in awarding the project and now the re-tendering.
According to Seclink Technologies, the pact for the railway land was signed on March 3, before the LoI was issued to it as the highest bidder, and that means there was no parameter change. Dharavi Redevelopment Committee (DRC) had also separately written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray earlier opposing the plan to invite fresh bids for the long-pending redevelopment project.
“It’s been too long that we have been waiting for the redevelopment and the plan to re-tender the project will delay it further. We are moving the court against this decision,” said Rajendra Korde, president of DRC. The Dharavi redevelopment will not only be a game changer for Mumbai but will also transform the political landscape for years to come. According to experts, the project will be a big opportunity for slum-dwellers and will also help urban planners, human rights activists and the state government to transform the face of Mumbai city altogether.
The earlier plan, prior to 2018 global tenders, was to divide Dharavi into five sectors, one to be redeveloped by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) and the other four by private entities. However, the plan did not progress beyond a few buildings constructed by the MHADA. In 2018, the state government had approved the plan to redevelop Dharavi as a single project and went ahead with a single global tender. The area was being promoted as a residential cluster and Mumbai’s new business district, given its central location and proximity to the Bandra-Kurla Complex.