NCPA auctions Homi Bhabha bungalow for Rs 372 Crore

MUMBAI, June 18: ‘Mehrangir’, the sea-facing three- storey iconic bungalow of Homi J Bhabha, father of India’s atomic energy programme, here was today auctioned for Rs 372 crore to a buyer whose identity was kept under wraps.

The highest bidder, whose identity was not disclosed at his request, landed the sprawling property in the plush south Mumbai Malabar Hill area which went under the hammer at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), its custodian.

“We have sold the property as per the will of Jamshed Bhabha, which made it very clear that the property, apart from some small personal bequests, was to devolve solely on the NCPA, a charitable institution created by him,” NCPA chairman Khushroo Suntook told reporters here after the auction.

Some employees of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) had recently petitioned the Centre and moved the Bombay High Court against the sale and wanted the bungalow to be converted into an atomic energy museum.

The High Court had on Monday refused to grant a stay against the sale, but posted the matter for hearing on June 23, saying the auction could be revoked, if required.

Initially the NCPA received eight bids for the three- storey bungalow with a built-up area of over 17,550 sq ft on a plot measuring over 40,000 sq ft, but due to the negative publicity in the media, only three turned up today, he said.

“I don’t understand why people were against this (sale of the property). It was just a private property and not even a heritage structure. There had been attempts in some quarters to stall the bid process and have the property retained as a museum.

“Unfortunately the coverage it received in the media was misleading which resulted in only three bidders coming up during the final auction,” Suntook said.

Suntook said though the property fetched Rs 115 crore more than the reserve price of Rs 257 crore, it could have received higher bidding had the process not been embroiled in controversy.

He also hoped that the new owner will not demolish the bungalow but added that ultimately the new owner has to take a call.

The National Centre of Performing Arts (NCPA) now plans to use the proceeds for modernisation of its facilities, realignment of theatres, upgrading cultural presentation to bring them to international standards and starting educational initiatives such as opening an advance school of training for Indian and international music among others.

After Bhabha’s death in a plane crash near Mont Blanc in January, 1966, while he was on his way to Vienna, Austria, his brother Jamshed, a patron of art and culture, became the custodian of the estate.

On Jamshed’s death in 2007, the property was transferred to the NCPA, an institution he had nurtured.

Homi Bhabha was a part owner of the property along with his mother and Jamshed .

There have been persistent demands that the bungalow be turned into a museum. Scientists like CNR Rao have been making a strong pitch for turning “Mehrangir” into a museum by the government as a tribute to the “father of India’s atomic energy programme. (PTI)

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