The iron and steel market in Kalamboli, near Panvel, is beset by alleged irregularities that are drastically cutting into its revenues since 2016. This has come to light in the market’s 2017-18 and 2018-19 audit reports made public this month by the state’s Directorate of Local Funds Account Audit.
The reported anomalies include failure to recover fines, not using the funds to improve the infrastructure and unproportionally low goods toll collection in comparison to the number of vehicles. Traders also allege that countless plots are no longer used to deal in iron and steel. The Kalamboli market, called the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Iron and Steel Market Committee, is one of the largest metal-alloy wholesale markets in India.
Vikas Rasal, CEO of the market committee, expressed helplessness. “We can’t increase the goods toll even though the number of vehicles has been increasing. We can’t make good roads with small funds. We are trying for the recovery of crores in arrears,” Rasal said. Demanding an inquiry, Santosh Gavas of Prahar Janshakti Sanghatna said the report has revealed that 611 plots are being used for purposes other than the iron and steel business.
Spread over 302 hectares, the market was moved to Kalamboli from Mumbai in 1982-83. It has 1,947 CIDCO lease plots, whose fee was to be hiked by 5 per cent in 2016-17. However, traders say the committee has still not approved the hike, causing revenue losses. In fact, the committee has not recovered, or tried enough to recover, the market fee and late fee fine to the tune of Rs 5,85,21,233 from the traders.
The reports have pointed out that the contractor is paying the committee Rs 26,39,660 per month as goods entry toll but “the number of vehicles is higher in comparison”. As per the reports, a pay and park scheme has also been implemented on contractual basis, but the contract is not audited properly.
As per a government resolution dated November 26, 2014, e-tenders should be issued for expenses higher than Rs 3 lakh. The Kalamboli market committee has allegedly violated this by not inviting e-tenders for any work. As per the report, the committee has been contracting plot-fencing to Karman Advertising for 16 years without following e-tendering. “This is a very serious violation and this contract must be redone with e-tendering for three years only,” reads a remark.
When this reporter visited the market on Wednesday evening, vehicles were illegally parked in two or three lanes even on the main road. A trader, Jatin Sheth said, “The roads are so bad that important visitors who come for material testing have to be brought to the factory on cranes during monsoon.”
Another trader, Munna Shah said, “Behind my warehouse, a DP box is stuck to tree branches with cloth. The ‘Make in India’ lion looks attractive in logo but the real lions of steel and iron industry are being completely neglected.”