KOLKATA: The Calcutta high court has ordered the state government to ensure that the character of Mullarbaer in Dankuni off Durgapur Expressway, is not changed, raising hope among locals as well as environment action groups that the sprawling wetland that was being filled up may yet be saved.
Responding to a public interest litigation filed by PUBLIC with the support of other NGOs, Chief Justice of Calcutta high court Arun Kumar Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi ruled on Wednesday that status quo be maintained and the nature and character of the land not be changed.
Pleading for the petitioners, Mr Sidhartha Mitra showed the court pictures of the destruction , including the crushed yellow monitor lizard, to get the order just as the court prepares to go on vacation.
Since January this year, a group of NGOs – PUBLIC, WWF India, Disha and Forum for Human, Legal & Ecological Rights (LHLER) – has been fighting for the 500-hectare marshy land that is home to animals such as the jungle cat and the fishing cat as well as a migratory stop for birds whose breeding grounds stretch from Finland to eastern Siberia.
TOI, too, had visited the spot with the activists and reported on how hundreds of trucks were dumping fly ash on the marshy land, crushing monitor lizards and burying fish and other aquatic species. Following the report along with a telling photograph of a crushed yellow monitor lizard, the activist groups moved the high court, seeking its intervention in saving the biodiversity hotspot.
“What galvanized the NGOs into action was the photograph of a yellow monitor lizard (protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 – the schedule that protects the tiger) crushed by the wheels of the trucks dumping fly ash into the wetlands,” recounted Bonani Kakkar of PUBLIC.
Mullarbaer along with several other sites in the belt has been a favourite spot for birdwatchers. They discovered the destruction and alerted green activists. According to some birding enthusiasts, rare birds such as yellow-breasted bunting, western marsh harrier and the crested serpent eagle could be sighted till as late as November.
Moreover, activists added that the presence of at least one mammal, two birds and a reptile belonging to the Schedule I of IWPA, 1972, is bound to guarantee legal protection of the highest level should be guaranteed. Also, the West Bengal Inland Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1993, and National Environmental Policy, 2006 have enabling causes to protect wetlands.
“Despite repeated appeals to officials like the chief secretary to the environment secretary, the forest secretary and even to the district magistrate, the trucks – 100 to 150 a day – kept coming, choking the area with fly ash,” said Kunal Guha Roy of FHLER. Though delighted at the order, activists caution that this is only the first step. “So much damage has been done that restoration will be a real challenge,” said Kakkar. Like the proverbial phoenix, will yellow monitor lizards rise from the fly ash?
CHIEF Minister Mamata Banerjee, who reached Darjeeling today on a three-day tour on an invitation from Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung, said her love for the Hills continued and she had been working there for several developmental projects, including road and tourism projects.
After meeting Gurung in the evening, Mamata said: “We love the Hills and the people of the Hills also love me a lot. Since the time I became Railway minister, I have been visiting this place and started several projects here. After becoming chief minister, my love for the hills continues. I have visited the place at least 21 times after I became CM.”
The Chief Minister said she has started several projects in Terai and Dooar region as well. “We will set up an industrial town in Falakata, a film city will come up in Siliguri, and we have plans to set up another tourism hub and a film city in Banarhat in Jalpaiguri where we have already got 160 acres of land.”
Contrary to Mamata’s last meeting in Darjeeling on January 29 that was controlled by the district administration, this time her visit has been organised by the GTA.
Mamata’s meeting with the GJM leadership is significant given that the relation between the two deteriorated earlier in the year. The GJM leaders had been offended by the CM’s remarks that Darjeeling cannot be separated from Bengal and that she could be “rough and tough” if the need arose.
The equation changed after hundreds of GJM supporters and workers joined Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) recently.
GJM general secretary Roshan Giri had met Mamata in April-end at the state secretariat and invited her to join the GTA programmes in Darjeeling in May.
“The influence of anti-GJM parties, including GNLF, is increasing in the hills. Several hundreds of our workers and supporters have joined GNLF. Two senior GJM leaders, including a Nari Morcha leader of Kalimpong, joined GNLF. In April, around 100 workers joined Trinamool Congress in Darjeeling in a meeting held by TMC minister Gautam Deb. Moreover, the GTA needs to be operational to resume development works in the Hills. So, in a central committee meeting last month, it was decided that the party will start convincing the chief minister and seek support to run the GTA,” said a senior GJM leader.
Sources in the GJM said Mamata will inaugurate an auditorium — a “pet project” of Ghising that was being constructed for a decade — tomorrow in Darjeeling.
Meanwhile, the GJM leaders said Mamata’s visit to the Hills is the only “good thing” happening to the CM after the Saradha Group companies went bust. “The ruling party needs something to tell the people before the panchayat elections. And the only positive development is her visiting the Hills ,” said a GJM central committee member.
KOLKATA: Check the land deed twice before you buy a plot from a broker. Chances are that the deed is fake, a clone of the original, like counterfeit notes. Land deed cloning is the Ponzi firm’s latest gift to fraudulent trade in the state.
TOI has learnt that Ponzi firm owners had started the fraud with a section of bank and land registration officials. They fake signatures and seal of the land registration authorities, thus selling the same plot to many buyers. Hundreds of complaints have poured into the Shyamal Sen commission’s office set up to probe the Saradha muddle, where many have lodged co plaints against fake land deeds, apart from asking for a refund of money. Such fake dealings in the way of multiple mortgages have also added to the bad assets of banks.
“Most of the cases involving fake or cloned documents in land deals have been reported from districts like South and North 24-Parganas and Nadia,” said Dipankar Mukherjee, secretary of the All India Bank officers’ Confederation (West Bengal state unit).
Alarmed with the situation, the state government had started to confiscate land lying with the suspicious companies. The government has started to seize land of companies that have more than 24 acre in possession.
“The trend of duping banks by forging land deeds was high in the middle of the past decade. City police have busted several rackets where fraudsters had managed to get bank loans with forged documents, and in some cases loans were obtained from different banks showing the same land or property. In several cases, probe unearthed a nexus between the fraudsters and a section of bank employees. But now, after busting several rackets, we have managed to buck the trend,” said Pallav Kanti Ghosh, joint CP (Crime), Kolkata Police.
According to bank sources, the fraudsters close land documents and sell the same piece of land to several people. “It is difficult to make out the fake from the original as those are done very meticulously. They even copy stamp of the registering authorities and signature on the original,” said a bank official.
T R Chawla, executive director of Allahabad Bank, said most of the frauds that are reported are done by individuals. “We have seen cases where documents were faked but mostly these are done by individuals, rather than any corporate entity,” he said.
Although the number of land frauds has come down after the banks in the state have started using Central Registry of Securitisation Asset Reconstruction and Security Interest (CERSAI), the fraudsters have taken innovative routes to dupe people. “There is a mechanism that allows us to search if that land had already been mortgaged with any bank. But if that land is already sold to an individual and has no mortgage records, it is difficult to track it down,” Mukherjee said.
According to Deepak Narang, executive director of United Bank of India, “We have been able to contain such frauds after the banks have started using certified copies of land deeds and using CERSAI extensively.
Banglar Bhumi, a portal on land records of West Bengal, is ready to provide all land related information to people, particularly entrepreneurs, sources in the Land and Land Reforms department said.
The land have been divided into various zones like agricultural zone, industrial zone and tourism zone for easy spotting of target lands.
“The basic idea behind marking the zones is that industrial and other big projects of the state government and the Centre will be located in the appropriate zones without disturbing food security in the state,” sources said.
The block-wise land use maps show single, double and multi crops land, dry and barren land, forest land, metal roads, national highway, state highway, railway network, industrial area, area under infrastructural development and water bodies etc.
“This will help the entrepreneurs intending to set up industries know the actual infrastructure available at the proposed sites,” sources said.
However, the concept of zoning in block-wise maps of the districts was introduced in May 2011 to identify agricultural zone, industrial zone and tourism zone, townships and wetlands.
The block-wise land use maps of five districts — West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia, Burdwan and Birbhum — have been prepared and formally published in March 2010.
KOLKATA: West Bengal did not receive any investment, either foreign or domestic, in the real estate sector in the financial year 2012-13, according to a report by industry body Assocham.
“The state of West Bengal has absolutely no share in the total value of new investment commitments worth over Rs 42,000 crore made by the domestic and foreign private sources in the real estate sector across India in the last fiscal,” the report which a real estate sector specific analysis and released today, said.
“Although total outstanding investments in the real estate sector in West Bengal is worth over Rs 37,000 crore as of March 2013, the state has registered a 100 per cent decline vis-a-vis new investment commitments attracted by the realty sector between 2011-12 and 2012-13,” it said.
In 2011-12, the state attracted new investment commitments in the real estate sector worth over Rs 1,200 crore.
The body said while most of the states have seen a decline in attracting new investment commitments in the realty sector, Gujarat has seen a surge of over 700 per cent as the state has attracted investments worth over Rs 17,000 crore in 2012-13 from just over Rs 2,000 crore a year ago.
With land acquisition being perceived as the main obstacle to industrialisation in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today assured the industry that it will not be a problem in case of projects in hand.
The government sought the opinion of industry on the issue of land, and its stand was that it would not be a problem if a project was in hand, ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar said after the first meeting of the core committee on industry chaired by the Chief Minister.
Deveshwar, who attended the meeting for the first time, said that various ideas were explored and steps were discussed for the economic development of the state.
He told reporters after the over one hour meeting that the progress of the state was being reviewed and opportunities in various sectors like services were discussed.
Chairman of Ambuja Neotia group Harsh Neotia said that according to the government it would come up with a new industrial policy shortly.
The core committee on industry was formed by the Trinamool Congress in 2011 for the industrial development of the state.
On earlier occasions, the meeting used to be chaired by Industry and Commerce minister Partha Chatterjee.
Others who attended the meeting were president of Bharat Chamber of Commerce Ashok Aikat, MCCI president Deepak Jalan, Calcutta Chamber of Commerce president Alka Bangur.
Former FICCI eastern region chairman C K Dhanuka, Assocham eastern region head Sanjay Jhunjhunwala, president of BNCCI Amit Sen, Bengal Chamber of Commerce president Kallol Datta, Patton International chairman Sanjay Budhia and CII Eastern Region chairman Sudhir Deora were also present.
From the government side, besides the chief minister and the industry minister, Finance minister Amit Mitra, Urban Development minister Firhad Hakim, Transport minister Madan Mitra and others were present.
KOLKATA: They had a penchant for returning to their roots. For that, more than 100 residents in Shillong had invested in land in the early Nineties to settle in the city. Barring one – retired Indian Audit & Accounts Service officer Samaresh Roy Choudhury – none of them has got back their dues. Neither has anyone got a plot in Pailan to build his house.
These duped Shillong residents had planned to stay in the new township in Pailan after their retirement and had paid to Ram Thakur Abasan for their plots. But they soon came to know that Sudipta Sen of Saradha group had taken over the land. In 2001, Sen had gone to Shillong to hold a meeting with these investors. During the meeting, he had even promised to the plot owners to build houses and had taken advances from them. But 12 years on, the plot owners are yet to get possession of their plots.
Roy Choudhury was one who had initially paid Rs 45,000 for the land and again paid Rs 1,10,000 to Sen in 2001. Roy Choudhury did not get hold of the land even after repeated requests to Sen. “I met Sen at his Pailan office for money. He always assured me to refund it whenever I went to Kolkata. Ultimately he gave me a cheque of Rs 1,55,000, but that bounced. I wrote a number of letters for my dues and he always assured me to do so. Soon, I placed his letters to the consumer forum in Shillong and demanded a compensation of Rs 8 lakh for the delay and the trauma I suffered. But the court case went on for about five years and ultimately in 2006, Sen had agreed to mutually settle the matter. He paid me Rs 2 lakh as interest of the money I had invested and I withdrew the case.”
Roy Choudhury is happy that Sen, who has duped so many people, is ultimately behind the bars. “He was a crook and harassed me a lot. I do not know why other people from Shillong did not file cases against him.”
Lohit Das, a lawyer, had tried to get back the money from Sen, but he got frustrated after repeated refusals. Das had also filed a case against Sen and the process was started by the lower court, but it was quashed by the high court due to lack of jurisdiction.
Even Ajay Kumar Ray, a retired IAS officer of Meghalaya government who had paid Rs 72,000 for two plots for his son and daughter, did not get his money back. “The plot owners in Shillong had entrusted some office bearers to negotiate with Saradha Group so that we can get back our money, but they failed.”
Shikta Choudhury, headmistress of Rama Krishna Mission School in Shillong, added: “Initially we were told that the delay happened as the land was being developed. But when we went to the plot later, we found it to be a paddy field. There was no demarcation of the plots. Moreover, it was difficult to go to Kolkata and fight for the money.”
Godrej Properties Ltd., the real estate development arm of the Godrej Group, today announced the launch of its ultra-luxury residential project, Godrej Platinum, in Alipore, Kolkata. Spread over approximately 1.4 acres, this project will have only 35 luxurious homes. Apartment sizes range between 3,762 sq. ft. per apartment and 5,075 sq. ft. per apartment with an average ticket size of Rs 10 crores per home.
Godrej Platinum enjoys good frontage on Burdawan Road within the peaceful and serene Alipore, which has established itself as Kolkata’s most desirable residential enclave. Renowned hotels, schools, hospitals, and shopping malls are in close proximity to Godrej Platinum.
The centrally air-conditioned apartments will have luxurious and spacious bedrooms with exclusive wardrobe areas. All apartments are designed to be intelligent homes and will be fitted with state-of-the-art home automation systems. Each apartment will have spacious outdoor private decks for entertainment. The residents of this project will also enjoy membership in Quintessentially – an exclusive international concierge club. In addition, Godrej Platinum offers a multitude of lifestyle and sports amenities including a well-equipped gymnasium, swimming pool, indoor games and dedicated kids play area.
The project will use eco-friendly material and will integrate environment-sensitive passive architectural solutions to minimize carbon emissions. Features like electric car charging facility, rainwater harvesting, low VOC paints and water efficient fixtures will be incorporated in the project design.
Godrej Platinum is designed by world renowned architecture firm, Perkins Eastman, who are the Masterplanners and Design Architects for the Indian School of Business at Mohali and have to their credit many international landmarks.
Mr. Pirojsha Godrej, Managing Director & CEO, Godrej Properties said, “”We are very excited to launch our luxury residential project, Godrej Platinum, in Alipore. Through outstanding design, quality construction, and attention to every detail, we intend to ensure that Godrej Platinum becomes Kolkata’s most exclusive and desirable residential address for decades to come.”
KOLKATA: Is encroachment solely to blame for delay in completion of the ongoing Metro projects in Kolkata? Probably not – at least not for the extension of the Metro network from Noapara to Dakshineswar. A section of railway officials believes that little progress has been made on this stretch due to faulty alignment. They feel that the Metro Railway should amend the alignment and approach the Railway Board for approval, if they want to avoid further delay.
“The Noapara-Dakshineswar stretch is one of the most important routes that will benefit hundreds of commuters from the northern fringes of the city. Though the contract for civil works was awarded in June, 2011, the progress of construction in the last 18 months was barely around 10%. The route that has been proposed now runs over a highly congested slum area just after Noapara. Though this is an encroachment on railway land, it has been there for the last 20 years and will be difficult to remove. This stretch is about 750 metres long,” said an official.
The next 750 metres runs over Belgharia Expressway. The Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) – entrusted with the implementation of the project – has started shifting parts of the expressway, but that may not be possible everywhere due to non-availability of land.
“There is a particular problem for a length of 300 metres where a large housing complex with four-storied buildings has come up, just from the edge of the railway land. No acquisition is possible here. The only way for extension of the ‘bank’ for diversion of the road is by constructing a retaining wall. However, no space is available for construction of a foundation for such high retaining wall. Even construction of a reinforced earth wall is not feasible at this location due to technical difficulties,” the official added.
According to another official, the selection of the location where the proposed Metro link will cross the Dunlop Bridge is also incorrect. The agency involved in construction will get saddled with problems of shifting numerous utilities like the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s water supply main pipeline, several electric and communication cables and sewer lines. Construction of the Dakshineswar station will also pose a problem as construction of piles on the existing cinder bank may be technically difficult. The existing high bank is mostly built of cinder as earth was not found in the vicinity in the 1930s when it was constructed.
“It is possible to shift the new Dakshineswar station by about 30 feet laterally and construct it on a viaduct. It is also possible to avoid the crossing location of Dunlop Bridge. The alignment at the approach of Noapara, where encroachment exists, can be shifted by introducing a curve. The viaduct will be on a pond, but construction is feasible. Work can be smoothly executed only if a change in alignment is brought about. Unless this is done, construction will extend indefinitely, resulting in unnecessary cost escalation,” he said.
KOLKATA: Residents of Rajarhat New Town have been complaining of the lack of civic amenities in the township. Their worries can now be put to rest. On Monday, the state cabinet cleared the proposal to enact the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2013 that will allow the authority to function as a municipality.
The urban development department will now prepare the draft for the proposed amendment bill to be placed at the next assembly session. Once approved, the civic body will not only be able to collect property tax from the residents but will also provide civic amenities to them.
This apart, the cabinet also passed a proposal to acquire 5.76 acres of land at Chakpachuria mouza in Rajarhat New Town for development of civic amenities like roads, sewerage and drainage and water supply.
State urban development minister Firhad Hakim said that by bringing this amendment bill, New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) will get a municipal structure and act as a municipality for New Town.
On January 1, 2009, NKDA was formed after the New Town Kolkata Development Authority Act, 2007 was passed by the state legislature. The purpose of the authority was to provide planned development and civic services to Rajarhat-New Town residents. At present, NKDA acts as the local civic body for the township, but Rajarhat New Town does not fall under any municipality or corporation.
Residents are, however, not satisfied with the services. “There is an overall lack of civic amenities in New Town. While garbage is seen piled up in many places, car parking is a big problem. The quality of water has been a long standing problem and the sewerage and drainage system is yet to be fully developed,” a resident of the township said.
Taking into consideration the inconvenience faced by the people, the state urban development department had mooted the proposal in the cabinet to allow NKDA to assess, levy and collect property tax from residents of Rajarhat New Town. However, the proposal was deferred since the chief minister wasn’t sure if an authority could function as a municipality. The department was then asked to work on proposing some amendments in the NKDA Act so that the authority could be entrusted with the responsibility to act like a municipality or corporation and be able to collect tax. The move has been welcomed by the residents.
The proposal to acquire 5.76 acres of land at dag number 1,365 and 1,366 (P) of Chakpachuria mouza will also give a boost to the township. The land will be used for development of internal road network, sewerage and drainage and water supply system.
Though Hidco authorities were tightlipped about the land acquisition proposal, Hakim said that the land was already in the possession of Hidco and that no fresh acquisition was required. Officials said that there was no problem in acquisition of land for any public interest project.
The state cabinet on Monday took a significant decision by clearing the proposal to enact the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to allow the authority to function as a municipality by collecting property tax and providing civic amenities in Rajarhat New Town. The urban development department will now prepare the draft for the proposed amendment bill to be placed at the next assembly session. The cabinet also passed a proposal to acquire 5.76 acres of land at Chakpachuria mouza in Rajarhat New Town for development of civic amenities like roads, sewerage and drainage and water supply in the upcoming township.
State urban development minister Firhad Hakim said that by bringing this amendment bill, New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) will get a municipal structure and act as a municipality for New Town.
Residents of New Town have been complaining for a long time that NKDA was not able to provide civic amenities properly. “There is an overall lack of civic amenities in New Town. Garbage is seen piled up in many places, car parking is a big problem, quality of water has been a long standing problem while the sewerage and drainage system is yet to be fully developed,” a resident said.
The New Town Kolkata Development Authority Act, 2007 was passed by the West Bengal legislature and the authority was formed on January 1, 2009 to provide planned development as well as civic services and amenities in areas in Rajarhat-New Town. Presently, though NKDA acts as the local civic body, Rajarhat New Town does not fall under any municipality or corporation and residents of the township do not pay property tax to the government.
Earlier last year, the state urban development department had mooted the proposal in the state cabinet to allow NKDA to assess, levy and collect property tax from residents of Rajarhat New Town. However, the proposal was deferred as the chief minister enquired whether an authority can function as a municipality. The department was then asked to work on proposing some amendments in the NKDA Act so that the authority can be entrusted with the responsibility to act like a municipality or corporation and be able to collect tax.
In another decision, the cabinet passed the proposal to acquire 5.76 acres of land at dag number 1,365 and 1,366 (P) of Chakpachuria mouza in Rajarhat New Town for development of internal road network, sewerage and drainage and water supply system. The decision is significant given that chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced that no more land would be acquired in Rajarhat New Town.
Though Hidco authorities were tightlipped about the land acquisition proposal, state urban development minister Firhad Hakim said that the land was already there with Hidco and that no fresh acquisition was required. Some officials said that there was no problem in acquisition of land for any public interest project.