Mehrangir on Malabar Hill, the bungalow where the father of India’s atomic energy programme, Homi Bhabha, once lived, will go under the hammer on Wednesday afternoon.
Article by Nergish Sunavala & Nauzer K Bharucha | Times of India
Property market sources said they expect the property to fetch in excess of Rs 300 crore against the reserve price of Rs 265 crore. Till Tuesday, close to a dozen bids were received. “None of them is from any builder. The prospective clients are all end users,” said a source tracking the sale, who did not rule out developers submitting last-minute bids. The bungalow is a three-storey structure with a built-up area of over 15,000 sq ft on a plot measuring 1,593 sq m. It is close to Hanging Gardens and offers a spectacular view of the sea.
The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), which controls the property and invited bids early this year, has received flak for selling the bungalow, which has historical value. After Bhabha’s death in 1966, his brother Jamshed became the custodian of the estate. Jamshed, a patron of the arts, died in 2007 aged 93. Employees of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) have petitioned the Centre and moved court against the sale, stating that the home should be converted into an atomic energy museum. The high court recently refused to grant a stay against the sale, but posted the matter for hearing on June 23.
The employees also wrote to Tata Trust chairman Ratan Tata, who sympathized with them, but said he would not be able to help as he was not a part of the auction process.
NCPA chairman Khushroo Suntook said, “We are absolutely going ahead (with the auction) as per court order… This money is going into the promotion of the number one arts centre in the whole of South Asia.”
Suntook lambasted those opposing the sale, stating that it was an assault on private property. “When one person wants to give private property to another, how can someone else interfere? This was the sole property of Dr Jamshed Bhabha and he left it to the institution he nurtured (NCPA). We don’t understand this misplaced sympathy for creating a museum. The right place to do it would be the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. Dr Homi Bhabha himself would have been the first one to say that this money should go towards the promotion of arts and culture.”
Last week, the state government announced that it will approach the Centre and ask it to declare Mehrangir as a heritage structure. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told the legislative council last Saturday that he would write to prime minister Narendra Modi, who heads the atomic energy department, to acquire the property and convert it into a museum dedicated to nuclear science. Suntook said Dr Jamshed Bhabha had clearly mentioned in his will that everything in his house should be sold and the money used for the NCPA.