Maharashtra: MLA Hostel plan cost hits the roof, while MVA and BJP spar on ground

Mumbai: Today no one can predict when the reconstruction of Manora MLA Hostel would be completed, but this is going to be noted in the state records for two reasons. The cost escalation – up from Rs 400 crore to Rs 900 crore in 4-5 years and the delays due to improper planning.

After the state PWD issued the tender on May 4, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) objected to its timing, especially when the state was fighting with the coronavirus pandemic. The BJP has levelled allegations of graft as the reason behind the rise in cost. However, the Congress offered a fitting reply revealing some details. The NBCC tender drafted in February last year itself said the cost of the project as Rs 875 Cr. This has silenced the BJP for now. But nobody knows what may tumble out in future.

The Manora MLA hostel complex, comprising four buildings with 14 stories each, was constructed not long ago but in the 1990s. The buildings became weak, developing cracks, raising serious questions over the quality of construction. Nobody bothered to check why such a shabby construction was accepted to house the law makers but the plan to reconstruct it was swiftly approved. Another building that houses legislators, known as Akashwani MLA Hostel, was constructed in the 50s but is still sturdy. But hardly anybody has ever demanded discussion on such an important topic.

After going to the brief history of the decision to demolish four-buildings of Manora MLA Hostel and going ahead with the reconstruction reveals that the actual plan even as it was devised in 2016, could move ahead only in 2018 and the demolition work began finally in 2019. Even after the demolition was completed things did not move and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government decided to cancel the job given to National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), the Government of India undertaking.

Chronology of developments

  • MoU signed with NBCC in July 2016 for reconstruction of the 3.28-acre plot at Nariman Point (approx Rs 400 cr)

  • NBCC preferred over PWD with a view that the latter may not be able to complete such a big project on time

  • Early reconstruction needed as buildings were unsafe and MLAs given Rs 1 lakh monthly from state kitty to make own stay arrangements

  • In August 2018 the plan was modified with two buildings of 50 & 30 floors each with a 5-story podium (Cost escalates to Rs 600 cr)

  • Demolition work starts in Jan 2019 and ends in May 2019;

  • Construction delayed due to CRZ regulations

  • Earlier, it was decided to use 5.32 FSI with 34-stories comprising 376 flats. Later, plan was modified with 1.33 FSI, reducing height by 8 floors

  • In February 2020, apex committee comprising presiding officers of the state legislature, CM, DyCM and PWD Minister decided to hand over the job to state PWD

  • During the same period, NBCC drafted tender documents with revised cost of Rs 810 crore. After adding GST and project management charges the cost shot up to Rs 875.62 cr

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