KOLKATA: The absence of a clear motive and strong indication that an “insider” might be involved in the murder of an elderly citizen at Deshapriya Park has sent neighbours of this upscale locality in shock.
What adds to their anxiety is that Ranajit Chatterjee was being pursued by local promoters for the last two years to sell off his ancestral property worth crores now.
Chatterjee refused. Police say his daughter cannot recall if he was ever threatened for this, but they will investigate this angle. “After what transpired at Short Street, we can hardly take a chance,” said a senior officer.
Local residents – including actor Biplab Chatterjee – say the “profile” of their area changed a couple of years ago. “The construction boom caught on and promoters set up shop across the city. Our locality was no different. Now, lawlessness has come to such a level that bikers take over the entire area after 8.30 pm,” said Biplab.
A family friend of the Chatterjees said the promoters made their first move when highrises were beginning to come up in the area. Chatterjee told them that it was his ancestral property and he could not sell it because there were other claimants. But the realtors were not deterred.
Another resident, Ananda Maitra, blamed lax policing. “Three months ago, robbers raided a building adjacent to the Chatterjees’. No one has been arrested so far. Less than a year ago, Chatterjee’s trusted driver Bishu was beaten up when he protested against the harassment of girls of a local school by outsiders,” said Maitra.
Chatterjee was not covered in Kolkata Police’s Pronam project for the elderly.
Bengal has seen a steep rise in crimes against the elderly. Data from National Crime Records Bureau says that murder of elderly citizens shot up from 198 in 2011 to 320 in 2012, the bulk of it in Kolkata and the adjoining Howrah, South and North 24-Parganas.
Another intriguing fact is that while a majority of the victims (149) were women in 2011, the next year 263 men were murdered.
Recent instances suggest the crimes are not specific to traditional areas of the elderly, like Salt Lake. In July 2011, robbers murdered 93-year-old Shanta Bhattacharya in her Ultadanga apartment. Ironically, she had refused to move to a bigger house in central Kolkata because she felt safe in the housing complex.
“The lack of para culture in new residential areas makes it all the more difficult for aged people like me to seek aid from neighbours. Even if I scream for help, I doubt if anyone will come forward. Every senior citizen living alone is vulnerable,” said Sanghamitra Chatterjee an Ekdalia resident.
KOLKATA: The intrusion bid at Short Street that resulted in two deaths last Sunday cost a whopping Rs 1.5 crore to plan and execute, say police.
Five days into the investigation, police say what they have uncovered so far reads like a Bollywood masala movie. But all too real.
The violence was waiting to happen, with both warring factions having a fair idea of the impeding trouble and local cops choosing to turn a blind eye, say sources.
It was in April that a forced takeover of the disputed property was discussed for the first time between Ritman CMD Parag Majmuder and a director of Heartline Estates Pvt Ltd, say police. The two felt emboldened as Calcutta high court had recently quashed Ratanlal Nahata’s appeal against the buying of the disputed land by Heartline.
Sources close to the director, however, rejected the police theory on Friday, claiming he was “being made a scapegoat as every major incident demands one.” Parag’s counsel also say he is being falsely accused in the takeover bid.
Heartland had sold the land one of Kolkata’s top industrialists – Concast owner Sanjay Surekha – and was eying the returns. However, Nahata refused to vacate. He got the support of Mamata, his “niece” in the endeavour.
Unable to gain possession and of the land aware that Sureka wanted his money (Rs 8.5 crore) back, the duo – allegedly at the behest of Parag – decided to act “tough”, say police sources.
Parag and the director decided to forcibly occupy the Short Street property, police say. They contacted Pinakesh Dutta, a contractor whom the director had met two years ago on another project, and a local Trinamool leader who roped in criminal lawyer Partho Chatterjee and security firm proprietor Arup Debnath.
According to police submission in a local court, Pinakesh was paid Rs 1.5 crore between April and July, which he transferred to the Bagha Jatin branch of Vijaya Bank. Police claim a part of this money reached Arup and Partho.
Police say they have proof of several phone calls between Pinakesh and Parag and Pinakesh and Arup. A city court has remanded Pinakesh in three days police custody. Police prayed for a court order to allow the bank manager to join investigations and added that Arup may be “arrested soon”.
After Dutta got the money, the planners got together a bunch of 5-10 men from Barrackpore who stormed into the address in daylight on September 13 and tried to put up a signboard for Heartline. But Nahata and Mamata fought back, and they retreated when Nahata brandished his guns, say investigators.
“The gang snatched a .32 bore revolver from Mamata. We are yet to recover the weapon or arrest anyone in that case of trespassing,” said an officer.
Surprisingly, despite the violence, Shakespeare Sarani police station reported to their seniors that no “serious” trespassing had taken place that day.
Desperate by now, Parag decided that coercion might not work. He extended an olive branch to Nahata, hoping to reach a settlement in October, say sources. Nahata’s lawyer Faizan reportedly said that he was willing to vacate the premises but on his own conditions – he should be adequately compensated and all charges against him should be dropped. Parag agreed, say sources.
But Nahata’s “niece”, Young Minds International School headmistress Mamata, remained a “headache.” Police say she was offered an apartment in Ballygunge and a handsome compensation but she refused to move out.
Pushed to a corner, Parag and the director allegedly planned another takeover, this time before the break of dawn, say police. Mamata, though, got wind of it and immediately recruited two security guards. She took over control of all important financial decisions related to Nahata and even took away his guns from him, say investigators.
A weeklong recce of the site preceded the takeover attempt, say sources, with accused Jayanta and Partho personally visiting the spot. But by the time the group arrived on the property at 4.30am on November 10, Mamata and her aides were ready. Seven rounds of gunfire tore into the intruders, killing two persons. A third is critically injured. He may lose an eye.
NEW DELHI: National capital-based realty firm Alchemist Township has bought about 20 acre land in Kolkata from a local builder Highland Group and will invest Rs 600 crore to develop a residential project.
Property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle India facilitated the deal. Alchemist Group is promoted by K D Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP from Trinamool Congress Party.
“In this deal, Delhi-based real estate developer Alchemist Township India has purchased 2 million square feet of prime residential land from Highland Group at Kolkata Riverside, a satellite township development encompassing 262 acres being developed on the banks of the Hooghly River,” JLL India said in a statement.
When contacted, JLL India Managing Director (Land Services) Mayank Saksena said Alchemist has bought about 20 acre of land but declined to disclose the value of the deal.
He also noted that this is the largest land deal between two private parties.
“Altogether, Alchemist Township India Ltd has earmarked approximately Rs 600 crore for this project,” JLL India said.
Jones Lang LaSalle India was transaction partner for both the firms in this deal.
A spokesperson from Alchemist Township India said the group intends to develop golf-course facing apartments and group housing on the two plots they have acquired.
Within 12 hours of Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh criticising his party and demanding a CBI inquiry into the Saradha Group scam, the Bidhan Nagar Commissionerate summoned him to Salt Lake Saturday morning and grilled him for nearly four hours in connection with the scam.
The action follows a showcause notice that the TMC’s discipilinary committee served late last night on him and two other party MPs, Satabdi Roy and Tapas Paul, for “anti-party activities”.
The three MPs had yesterday joined rebel Chowringhee MLA Sikha Mitra in criticising the party at a blood donation camp orgainsed in central Kolkata.
Sikha Mitra had said: “In the TMC one can’t speak out the truth. The TMC needed democracy.”
The party is now learnt to be moving the Speaker to ensure that Sikha Mitra be allotted a separate space in the Assembly as she has been suspended from the party.
A much vocal Ghosh sought a CBI inquiry into the Saradha Group scam while alleging important people in the TMC should also be named.
“The CBI should unearth these links and I am ready to give whatever assistance I can to the CBI in its investigation,” Ghosh had said.
By 11 pm Friday, Deputy Commissioner, Detective Department, Arnab Ghosh called up Kunal Ghosh, asking him to appear at the Commissionerate office at 11 am Saturday.
When asked about the showcause notice served on him, Kunal Ghosh admitted to have received the letter. “At this point I would like to ask what is the relationship with many of the TMC leaders with Saradha boss Sudipta Sen?” he asked.
Ghosh was one of the 22 persons whose names Sen had mentioned in his letter that he sent to the CBI days before his arrest.
In his defence, the MP had said he was only associated with the Group’s media business and had no connection with its financial operations.
However, coming out of the Bidhan Nagar police headquarters today, Ghosh told the mediapersons: “I am being politically and otherwise victimized. I am a victim of conspiracy.”
He added he would come to the police any number of times to help in the Saradha investigation.
‘Acts of indiscipline will not be tolerated’
Trinamool party general secretary Mukul Roy said acts of indiscipline would be nipped in the bud. If any member says or does anything against the party, he would have to pay for it. “In a democracy, people is the last word. And the past two years and three months have shown how people in Bengal have reposed their faith in the Trinamool Congress and supported the state’s aggressive development initiatives.”
KOLKATA: The state government has come up with a land use and development control plan (LUDCP) for the proposed Raghunathpur industrial township on a 29,000-acre barren and less fertile land identified in Purulia. It will prepare a land policy to determine the kind of industries that can be set up in the area and at what rate prospective investors could buy land from landowners.
State urban development minister Firhad Hakim said that the department will also conduct an economic corridor survey on how new roads could be set up in the area to develop the infrastructure.
A plan is on to set up a six-lane corridor that will connect Raniganj to Dhanbad via Raghunathpur. “The chief minister wants industries to be developed in the area and we are working accordingly,” the minister said.
According to the plan, industrial clusters will be set up surrounded by residential areas. “Unlike Rajarhat New Town, the government will not acquire any land here but facilitate developing the civic infrastructure such as roads, streetlights and solid waste disposal system so that an integrated industrial-cum-residential township could be built,” an official said.
The government has been lately stressing on developing micro, small and medium scale industries. Senior government officials said that setting up an industrial township along with residential clusters in Raghunathpur and its surrounding areas will help develop the socio economic-condition of people. as more job opportunities will be created and more people will be able to start living in what is presently lying idol as unused barren and low productivity land that mostly do not have any agricultural value.
According to estimates, the present land price of the area is about Rs 1 lakh per acre, which is very nominal compared to other areas. In Rajarhat New Town, Hidco have been auctioning land for record prices. For example, Hidco had fetched Rs 51.13 crore for a 2.5-acre plot, which is equivalent to more than Rs 20 crore per acre.
The government has decided to develop the infrastructure for industry units to come up there. Landowners would be able to start their own business. Also, investors will be able to directly approach the landowners to buy land from them to set up industry units.
With the Asansol industrial zone on one side and the newly inaugurated Aerotropolis project in Andal on another, the government is trying to cash in on these places to develop a plan for Raghunathpur. The government recently got a major boost with the Centre uplifting the industry ban at the industrial clusters of Haldia and Asansol, clearing the hurdle for the government to take on new industrial initiative in the areas.
Besides, the government is also planning to develop the area as a prospective tourist destination. A project report has been placed before the tourism department to work on this plan.
KOLKATA: Leading city-based realtors like the Surekas, Mohtas of the Merlin Group and the South City consortium have put their real estate projects on either side of the Kona Expressway and National Highways 6 and 3 on fast track within days of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s announcement to move her seat of governance from Kolkata to Howrah temporarily.
Most of the real estate players ET spoke to felt that relocation of the Writers’ Building to the 13-storey HRBC building in Howrah’s Mandirtala, less than 100 metres from Vidyasagar Setu, from October 1 will increase traffic movement and floating catchment of the area significantly.
The shift will also give a fillip to roadside eating joints, fast food stalls as well as the transport business. Former Credai-Bengal president Pradeep Sureka agreed: “The CM’s announcement to move her seat of governance to Howrah will not only increase traffic movement, but also improve infrastructure and draw public attention to the area. We plan to initiate work on our residential project shortly,” said Sureka, who is also managing director of Sureka group.
City realtor Merlin Group also hopes to obtain the state government’s approval for its proposed residential project soon. “The interest level for the area will go up once the government starts operating out of the HRBC building . If some of the departments continue to operate from there permanently, realty price of the area will appreciate positively,” said Sushil Mohta, managing director of Merlin Group.
Mohta, however, ruled out any immediate price hike primarily because the relocation was temporary. “Besides, one must keep in mind that unlike shares, real estate prices do not react to news instantly,” he pointed out. Industry players and intermediaries claim that flats in and around the area are fetching Rs 2,500 to Rs 4,000 per square feet (sq ft) depending on the location of the project and the facilities being offered.
Flats at Clubtown Riverdale, the upcoming residential project being developed by the Space Group, are being sold at Rs 6,000-plus per sq ft.
“We have already sold 60% of the flats. The announcement will boost inquires for flats,” said Jitendra Khaitan, CMD, Pioneer Property. Howrah, industry sources claim, has a lot of potential. The demand for industrial plot is still very high in this part of the city.
“But once CM’s secretariat starts working out of Howrah , infrastructure and connectivity will improve drastically and thus, make the area more habitable than what it is now. This, in turn, is expected to spur demand for residential complex in the near future and take off some of the load from Kolkata,” a realtor said.
South City consortium and West Bengal Small Scale Industrial Development Corporation are busy developing an industrial park sprawled over 20 acres. The group has sold 60% of its total plot at Rs 4 crore per acre.
“The demand for built-up space will hopefully increase now. We might complete sale of the balance 40% within the next six months,” the realtor added. Real estate consultant Lemongrass Advisors Managing Director Abhijit Das feels that although the area will witness a lot of activity, there will be only a marginal increase in property prices — both residential as well as commercial.
“Since the floating catchment for that area will go up, the transition will see mushrooming of new roadside eating joints in and around the area. Dalhousie’s street food joints will get negatively impacted,” he said. City mall owners too claim that the temporary shift is unlikely to have an impact on the footfalls, lease transactions or on the commercial price.
“Businessmen or company’s top executives visiting state government offices are bound by the time and therefore, will have little or no inclination to visit malls. Office bearers may hop into malls for some need-based shopping, increasing footfalls only to that extent and not significantly,” a mall owner said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim of having inherited a huge debt has got enough credence with courts ordering her government to pay Rs 2,000 crore to farmers for land taken from them by previous governments.
The cases of land acquisition date back to 1948 when Prafulla Chandra Ghosh of the Congress, the first chief minister of West Bengal, was at the helm.
As many of the courts, where the farmers moved to get compensation, directed the state government to pay the dues, Mamata, who is in charge of the department of land and land reforms, asked her officials to find out a way out.
But how did it all happen?
The Land Acquisition Act of 1894, promulgated by the British, stipulated that land could be taken only after declaring awards (compensation) for farmers. The farmers might take it or might not take it but the money would be ready.
But in 1948, a year after India got Independence, when the state had to acquire land fast owing to developmental necessities and the state government under Prafulla Chandra Ghosh was facing a severe cash crunch, an Act in the Assembly was passed which enabled the state government to acquire land first and declare the awards later.
Large tracts of land was acquired in this manner till 1994 when the Act was repealed by the Left Front government under Jyoti Basu and land began to be acquired in accordance with the 1894 Act.
“Between 1948 and 1994, huge areas of land was acquired for which farmers were not paid. Both the Congress and the subsequent Left Front governments are to blame for this. Many of these people moved court and we have been slapped with a total bill of Rs 2,000 crore. It is like a bolt from the blue for us. And we don’t know how much land has been acquired in this way, where the government did not pay compensation. In that case the bill can shoot up manifold. We will have to pay for the inefficiency of the previous governments,” an official of the land and land reforms department told The Sunday Express.
Trinamool Congress MP Debabrata Bandopadhyay, who was land reforms commissioner 30 years ago, said this matter never came to him when he handled the department. “But if the bill comes, this government will have to pay the money. What is the option left for us?” Bandopadhyay told The Sunday Express.
Contrary to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claims at yesterday’s industrial meet in Mumbai that the state government was ready with a land bank for industrialists, a reality check by The Indian Express reveals otherwise. The bank is largely incomplete with 12 of the state government’s 54 departments yet to inform as to how much land they have in their kitty.
This, despite the fact that the government has sent 12 letters to various departments since it came to power on May 20, 2011, seeking details of land owned by them.
The departments that have not responded so far include PWD, refugee rehabilitation, industrial reconstruction, to name a few.
“Our land bank is ready. Industrialists willing to invest here can come and invest now,” Mamata said at the meet at Mumbai.
Preparation of a land bank was in the party’s election manifesto. The state government has been able to trace only 30,000 acres of land under various departments. This is in addition to the 59,000 acres that is under the department of land and land reforms. “We have about 89,000 acres of land with us. But after the remaining 12 departments furnish information, it will definitely cross 1,00,000 acres of land,” an official of the department land and land reforms said.
But the official rues that there is no large chunks of land available. “There is no chunk that is more than 300 acres in size. But that is the nature of West Bengal’s landscape,” said the official.
KOLKATA: Metro projects are still high on chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s agenda.
The CM has instructed chief secretary Sanjay Mitra to convene a meeting on July 17 to iron out issues coming in the way of the metro corridor extension projects.
The chief secretary will hold the meeting with Metro Railway general manager Radhey Shyam, Hidco chairman Debashis Sen, transport secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay and senior officials of the irrigation department so that the issues coming in the way of the construction work can be sorted out across the table. Special emphasis will be on the New Garia-airport and Joka-BBD Bag extensions, say sources.
The expansion of the Kolkata Metro, which happens to be the country’s first underground mass transit system and the city’s lifeline, is in jeopardy. A drastic reduction in fund allocation in this year’s railway budget, along with land acquisition issues and alleged non-cooperation from the state government have come in the way of the projects.
Now, Mamata has brought it upon herself to push the projects and remove the hurdles. When she was with the UPA and had the railways portfolio, Mamata had announced four projects to add about 85km to the existing 25.20-km Metro network in the city. However, with a budget allocation of Rs 475 crore for all four projects by the former railway minister Pawan Bansal against an allocation of Rs 6,000 crore and Rs 4,000 crore in 2011-12 and 2012-13, the future of all the projects is uncertain now.
The Trinamool Congress has blamed the Centre and accused it of being “vindictive” after the pullout from UPA-II. But it seems that more than funding, land acquisition issues and the state’s non-cooperation have turned out to be the major challenges for the Metro expansion.
It is now almost certain that all the four projects —New Garia-airport, Noaparaairport, Joka-BBD Bag, Dum Dum-Baranagar-Dakshineswar-Barrackpore — will fail to meet the 2015-16 deadline, leading to time and cost overruns.
“The issues have been pending for a long time. It’s good that the state government is taking them up,” Kolkata Metro spokesperson Protyush Ghosh said.
For the airport line, there was a delay in getting permission from the AAI. The original plan of an elevated track near the airport was changed and the Metro authorities will now go for an underground construction for this extension.
For the Joka-BBD Bag route, approvals from the ministries of defence and finance for land owned by them in the Maidan and Alipore Mint areas are pending for a long time.
“Since Trinamool quit UPA, they are not willing to cooperate in land acquisition, which has been a hindrance to the projects,” minister of state for Railways Adhir Chowdhury said.
Defending the lower budget allocation, he said: “What is the point of higher allocation if Kolkata Metro cannot use it because of state’s noncooperation?”
In the 2010-11 and 2011-12 budgets, Mamata had allocated about Rs 10,000 crore. “But the state could not spend more than 20% of it. As per norm, the unutilized funds were re-appropriated in other projects by the Railway board,” said Chowdhury.
SINGUR: If an alleged sell-off started a historic revolution in Singur, a sell-out now mocks it. Land sharks allegedly protected by two Trinamool Congress leaders are gobbling up large patches of fertile land near the abandoned Tata Nano site.
Driving down Durgapur Expressway these days, you can see these patches of walled-off land. They tell a story no less coercive than the disputed acquisition during the Left Front government. Only this time, it’s worse because the Mamata Banerjee government claims not to see. And unlike the Nano project, where the government is giving a dole to even land labourers, farmers who are being lured/coerced into selling off their land have no one to turn to.
More than a hundred acres have already changed hands between Dankuni and Singur. And this may just be the tip of the iceberg.
The land sharks are breaking every law in the rulebook — and every resistance on the ground. Farmers who refuse to fall for their offers (that never materialize) suddenly see the plots around their farmland being taken up and walled off. Fly ash is dumped on the other plots, which is washed away by rain to adjoining plots, turning them infertile and leaving the farmer with no option but to accept the offer.
Commerce and industries minister Partha Chatterjee claimed innocence. “I am not aware of any such effort in Singur. However, my department will ascertain whether the land has been purchased for industry. In that case, the government won’t allow conversion of multi-crop land,” he said.
Becharam Manna, once a firebrand leader against the acquisition by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government, now sees good reason in the sale of land by poor farmers “for a better price”. Junior agriculture minister in the Mamata cabinet, Becharam says: “All these plots come under the low mono-crop category, fetching little for the owners. As far as I know they yield boro crop only. This could be a reason for the sellout. No one has complained against the purchase.” He insists he “won’t allow anything illegal.” “Land developers have to take permission from authorities before they use it for infrastructure or industry,” he says.
So what is the price on offer? “It’s Rs 40 lakh an acre,” says Sushil Kharkia, spokesman of Shyam Industrial Park, who admits fencing off 50 acres. But farmers have a different story. Primary schoolteacher-cum-farmer Swaraj Ghosh said: “I had five bighas in the fenced area. They gave me Rs 8 lakh for an acre. I had no choice. The land sharks used to come to our place and dictate prices. When some farmers refused to sell their land they dumped fly ash on their land,” said Ghosh.
Compare this with the offer of the Left Front government for the Singur land that Mamata called “forcible acquisition”: Rs 8.9 lakh-Rs 12 lakh compensation per acre, an add-on 50% of the compensation price, plus a government job to each landloser family.
Primary schoolteacher-cum-farmer Swaraj Ghosh said, “The new buyers also promised a job in the warehouses, godowns and the mineral water plant to come up on our land. That was three months ago. They didn’t keep their word.”
The owners of these plots have not even taken permission for conversion in the nature of the agricultural land, which is a must under the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955.
“This is a blatant violation of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act. How could land developers fence the land without taking permission when the Mamata Banerjee government is opposed to illegal conversion of farmland?” said environment activist Kunal Guha Ray. She complained to the Hooghly land and land reforms officer on July 2 that Shyam Industrial Park and SKM Housing Pvt Ltd have gathered 117 acres in five mouzas under Singur and Chanditala police stations. She has mentioned the dag numbers.
“We won’t allow the conversion in the nature of land,” said Hooghly district magistrate Manmit Nanda. Sushil Kharkia is at a loss. “We gathered the land to set up small and medium industry units that the chief minister is harping on. We have built the boundary wall only after registration. Some farmers are unwilling to part with their land that comes within our project area,” he said.
Alarmed by the complaint, police rounded up two land agents from Dankuni and eight persons from Chanditala. “We are investigating the complaints as and when we are getting them and taking steps immediately,” said SP Tanmoy Roy Chowdhury.
Private buyout of land in Singur-Chanditala
1. Two firms have allegedly purchased 117 acres (350 bighas) of agricultural land and wetland
2. Roads have been constructed by filling up wetland with flyash
3. Permission has not been taken for conversion of land
4. Price on offer: Rs 40 lakh an acre, but farmers say it is Rs 8-10 lakh an acre
Acquisition by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government in Singur
1. 997 acres spread over six mouzas in Singur
2. The purpose was to facilitate the setting up of the Tata Nano unit
3. Compensation: Rs 8.9 lakh-Rs 12 lakh per acre, plus 50% of compensation price and a job to each landloser family