Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kakade’s 4th extension plea raises questions

Kakade’s 4th extension plea raises questions

Questions have been raised over the way the Pune-based Sanjay Kakade Group — which bagged a prime 1.97 acre government plot worth Rs30 crore in return for building a few government offices — has repeatedly sought, and received, extensions. This is despite the fact that eight years after bagging the contract, only 60% of the work has been completed.
The plot is the spot where revolutionary Umaji Naik Khomane was arrested and subsequently hanged by British government in February 1832.
As per the agreement, the Kakade Group was to develop an Umaji Naik memorial at the spot before commencing other work. The memorial seems to have been built in a hurry and has attracted criticism. “The memorial is more of an insult than a tribute to the great revolutionary who laid his life down for the state,” said social activist Hanumanth Sathe, adding that the developer’s sloppy work should be probed.
In 2004, the Kakade Group entered into a contract to build and transfer to the government 7,078 sq mt of built-up area on a portion of a government plot at Khadakmal in Shukrawarpeth, Pune. This would be done at no cost to the government, which planned to have administrative offices in that area. In return, the agreement permitted the group to develop the remaining land and sell it.
By conservative estimates, the cost of constructing the offices would be just Rs3 crore. Thus, the developer would rake in at least Rs30 crore by selling the 8,000 sq mt of space it was permitted to develop for profit. Despite this huge profit margin, Kakade failed to complete the project on time.
After assuring the government that the project would be completed within 18 months from its inception in 2004, the Kakade Group breached the deadline not once, but thrice — in December 2009, June 2011 and June 2012. “Now, for the fourth time, Kakade has asked for an extension again,” a senior Pune-based PWD official said. “Due to this, we are facing problems accommodating our expanding offices. Moreover, the developer has paid only Rs39 lakh as penalty against the Rs2 crore bill raised against it for extending the deadlines,” the official added.
“Instead of blacklisting Kakade, the government should have terminated the contract permanently and given it to someone else,” said a prominent Pune-based developer.
Information sought under RTI revealed more irregularities: that the government violated rules to approve Kakade Group’s architectural plan.
According to a government notification issued on July 30, 2008, any government work on a plot larger than 5,000 sq mt must be approved by the state government’s chief architect only. However, the government delegated the job to the deputy chief architect based in Pune instead. The chief architect even complained about this violation of rules, but the plea fell on deaf ears, revealed the RTI.
Repeated calls and SMSs to Sanjay Kakade, seeking his response on the issue, went unanswered.

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