Magnetic Maharashtra contract handed to Wizcraft two years after firm was hit with FIR for ill-fated Make in India event

Magnetic Maharashtra — a pet project of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Industries Minister Subhash Desai to boost investment in Maharashtra — is to be held from 18 to 20 February in Mumbai, hosted by the state government's industry department MIDC with the CII as a national partner. Interestingly, the contract for organising the event has been handed to Wizcraft International in spite of the BMC and Mumbai Police filing an FIR against the event management company two years ago after the ill-fated events of 14 February, 2016.

During the 'Make In India' cultural programme held that night at Girgaum Chowpatty, a massive blaze engulfed the stage in front of such diginitaries as the governor, chief minister, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and a foreign delegation. Now two years on, Wizcraft has bagged the contract for Magnetic Maharashtra from CII. Another shocking detail is that the contracts for both the Make in India programme and the Magnetic Maharashtra one were, without tendering, handed to CII. And the reason being given by the industries ministry is that there wasn't enough time to hold a tendering process and that CII is well-known organisation with integrity.

 Magnetic Maharashtra contract handed to Wizcraft two years after firm was hit with FIR for ill-fated Make in India event

File image of the blaze at the Make in India event in 2016. AFP

The inquiry conducted by the Fire Department shortly after the incident and submitted to the government on 18 February, 2016 found that LPG cylinders were brought to Girgaum Chowpatty by Wizcraft without permission. The firm also neglected the safety instructions given in writing two weeks prior. According to the probe report, this act by Wizcraft demonstrated "negligence and flouting of fire safety instructions". By 15 February, 2016, the DB Marg Police had registered an FIR against Wizcraft, but as of now, there have been no arrests and the charge sheet filed by the police has yet to come up in court. The FIR was lodged against Wizcraft under Section 366 (an act endangering life or personal safety of others) and Section 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter) of the IPC.

Also, during 'Make in India Week' in 2016, CII got the contract from the Centre without tender and in turn, appointed Wizcraft for local arrangements, event and ground work responsibilities. Two years on, it's the same modus operandi: Magnetic Maharashtra was handed to CII without a tender and CII subcontracted the work to Wizcraft, said a senior MIDC official working closely with this year's Magnetic Maharashtra event. "Wizcraft firm was held responsible for the fire. BMC and police officials had filed an FIR after the incident and the payment to the company was held up. But no action has been taken yet," he added.

It is learnt that the contract for the Make in India event was worth Rs 13 crore 62 lakh, of which Rs five crore had already been paid to Wizcraft. But after the fire, the government stopped the pending payment. However, later, the Fadnavis government released the remaining sum of money, causing huge embarrassment to his government.

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant told Firstpost, "How has the state government taken the decision to hand the contract for the even to the same company? What happened to that FIR and was any action taken? Why did the state government not call for tenders and where is the condition of tender? It's a violation of the 'transparent government' ideology."

Wizcraft's founder-director Sabbas Joseph said, "Yes, it's true that an FIR been filed against us in connection with the Make in India programme fire incident two years ago. It was short-circuit, but the law will take its own course. For Magnetic Maharashtra, Wizcraft was the lowest bidder, that's why we have been given the contract."

Speaking with Firstpost, Desai said, "For Magnetic Maharashtra, CII is our main national partner. Two years ago, CII was also our national partner. It is a well-known industry body and we do not interfere with whom they appoint as contractors and for event management in terms of local coordination and ground work. As the Maharashtra government duly signed an agreement with CII for Magnetic Maharashtra and not its subcontractors, we have no idea about Wizcraft's role. Due to the shortage of time we could not invite tenders."

While Additional Chief Secretary Sunil Porwal declined to comment on the issue, a senior officer from the MIDC told Firstpost on condition of anonymity, "It's wrong to appoint Wizcraft for Magnetic Maharashtra. How can we appoint the same company against which the BMC and police have filed FIRs for negligence of work."

A senior IPS official from South Mumbai said that a charge sheet has been filed, but the case has yet to come up in court. When asked if any arrests had been made, he confirmed that no one from Wizcraft had been arrested.

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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2018 17:00:38 IST