Redevelopment of the 1,000-seater amphitheatre in Bandra by K Raheja Foundation is 18 years behind schedule, finds RTI applicant
Bal Gangadhar Tilak also known as Rang Mandir is a one-of-its-kind amphitheatre built on a prime plot measuring 9,950 square metres in Bandra West by the BMC. To be redeveloped by K Raheja Foundation in 1992 not only is Rang Mandir 18 years behind schedule, but its development plan is allegedly a sham.
An RTI response from the BMC categorically states that no building plans have been approved by the Building Proposal department of H West Ward, as per BMC records (SMD has a copy of the same). Aftab Siddique, a Bandra-based activist, who has filed the RTI, questioned the working of the BMC employees. “It is hard to estimate the losses incurred by the corporation if the project for a 1,000-seater open air theatre along with two levels of car parking was built on time. It is time strict action is taken against the erring developer,” says Siddique, who is now seeking copies of the agreement between the BMC and K Raheja Foundation.
Siddique alleges that a large portion of the land has been leased to the developer to be utilised for commercial purposes. When Sunday MiD DAY visited the site on Saturday afternoon, there were just a handful of men seen digging a pit in the ground, behind barricades guarded by security men.
Describing the old structure as a delightful piece of legacy that was built during the post independence era, Ranjana Barve, who has been residing the locality for over 56 years, says, “Every November and December there would be a month-long festival of Marathi plays. Schools which did not have private auditoriums would hold their annual day celebrations and culturalprogrammes here,” recalls Barve. Anil Gidwani, another resident estimates the cost of the plot at around Rs 800 crore. His biggest fear is that a shopping mall would pop up on the plot.
Ironically, Ashok Shintre, deputy engineer, town planning, who has signed the RTI on behalf of BMC (dated December 24 2009 and delivered on Saturday), states that he did not have any off hand information on the subject. V l Joshi, Chief Engineer (Development Plan), who has just taken charge of the issue this Friday, stated that once it is clear that his department has not given clearance for the development of the plot, it is up to the concerned ward to initiate the next step, which could include demolishing the illegal structure.
While there was no response to an enquiry mail sent by SMD to the developer, a senior architect at K Raheja Foundation states on condition of anonymity that there was an internal family dispute, which was responsible for the delay in executing the project.
“We have already spent between Rs 10-15 crore on the project for the betterment of the society,” says the architect.
He also claims that his organisation was now seeking permission for a double underground parking facility for cars, to tackle the ever-growing traffic problem in the city.
The year when K Raheja Foundation was allegedly handed over the Rang Mandir redevelopment project.