Latest Real Estate News on 'Kolkata'

Bid to put Metro projects on fast track

Comments Off on Bid to put Metro projects on fast track   |  July 21, 2013

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.

Land sharks taking over farmland in Singur, govt looks the other way

Comments Off on Land sharks taking over farmland in Singur, govt looks the other way   |  July 19, 2013

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

Nature’s own sewage system under threat

Comments Off on Nature’s own sewage system under threat   |  July 14, 2013

KOLKATA: East Kolkata Wetlands is one of 17 wetlands worldwide that is recognized for its wise use by Ramsar Convention, an inter-governmental treaty on conservation of wetlands of international importance to which India is a signatory.

Situated along the city’s eastern fringes, the sprawling wetlands comprising shallow fish farms, agricultural fields and villages act as the city’s natural sewage treatment system as well as the local fish, rice and vegetable source.

Mapped in 1985 by then environmental engineer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh, the 12,500-hectare unique ecosystem was listed as a Ramsar site in 2002. A decade later, the site has shrunk and the very existence of the ecosystem is under threat. And so is the survival of Kolkata.

“If the bheris disappear, so will a natural sewage treatment system that has served Kolkata for over a century. If that happens, thousands of crores will have to be spent to build and run sewage treatment plants. Can the city afford to spend on such colossal infrastructure when it been enjoying free services?” questioned Ghosh, who is now the South Asia vice-chairman of the Commission on Ecosystem Management at International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Credited with discovering the utility of the wetlands and its subsequent recognition globally, Ghosh had convinced former chief minister Jyoti Basu that the wetlands, if allowed to thrive, would continue to process the city’s sewage forever. According to scientists, around 980 million litre of sewage is dumped into EKW daily. This sewage is then detained in canals and ponds for a month where it is naturally treated through exposure to sunlight.

“In 1986, Basu wanted to see what the wetlands were about and asked me to show him the place. After giving him a tour, I dipped a glass into a bheri and then drank the water. He was shocked, but that was how I convinced him that the water had got treated. Eventually, he resisted pressure from Delhi to set up treatment plants for Kolkata under the Ganga Action Plan,” Ghosh recounted.

A defunct sewage treatment system isn’t the only threat that Kolkata faces if EKW is lost. The city will also lose a vital food source to feed its teeming millions. The EKW has a perennial supply of fish, rice and vegetables that are sold in Kolkata’s markets.

According to Dipayan Dey of SAFE, the 240 bheris in EKW produce 10,000 tonne of fish annually. In addition, the farmlands produce 1,500 tonne of rice and 55,000 tonne of vegetables. “If the fish and vegetables were to be procured from distant places, not only will the city’s food security be at risk, people would also have to pay more to buy them. And let’s not forget the 100,000-odd people who earn a living from the wetlands,” he pointed out.

Yet, that seems to be the fate of EKW given the massive encroachment and rampant construction in Paschim Chowbagha, Chowbagha, Chakkalar Khal, Kharki, Bagabanpur and Madurdaha. There is pressure to urbanize in the nearby Karimpur and Jagatipota mouzas as well as Kulberia and Dharamtala Panchuria on the opposite side.

What makes the bheris particularly vulnerable is the ambiguity over their ownership. In 80% cases, owners are either untraceable or have no tangible connection with the bheri. And except for Goltala, Captain bheri and Nalban, the other fishermen’s cooperatives do not have proper registration.

Ghosh feels it is high time that the EKW map is redrawn so that people get a reality check. “The EKW system harbours an outstanding and unique knowledge system without any other instance of such a wisdom in waste recycling anywhere in the world. As is true almost anywhere in our country, traditional knowledge systems particularly in agriculture are under mindless assault, and it is the same here in EKW. The knowledge stock is diminishing, and diminishing rapidly,” he warned.

As an EKW management authority member, he wrote to the chief secretary in April 2011, suggesting that the map be redrawn to reflect the drastic changes since the Ramsar listing in 2002. But there has been no response.

“Increasing chunks of land are getting converted into regular township type of agglomerates. The settlers are from outside and have no social or economic connect with EKW. The canals previously used for wastewater supply to fisheries and agriculture are now used as a common drain for adjacent buildings. The original EKW map was drawn in 1985 on the basis of specific scientific, social and administrative arguments. It is improper to continue to include such places which have been urbanized or on the verge of urbanization within the boundary of a wetland of international importance. The EKW map should therefore be re-drawn eliminating places that have irreversibly changed,” Ghosh argued.

Land acquisition for metro project upheld

Comments Off on Land acquisition for metro project upheld   |  July 9, 2013

The Calcutta High Court today set aside a trial court order upholding the acquisition of land by the transport department of the West Bengal government for construction of Central Station at Bowbazar in the city under the East-West Metro project.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Joymalyo Bagchi upheld the acquisition, observing that the state has proved that the award was announced within the statutory period of two years and not beyond that as claimed by the residents who had challenged the acquisition.

The state’s Land and Land Revenue Department had moved the division bench against an order of Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, who had in September last passed an order that the entire land acquisition proceedings concerning the properties stood lapsed.

The single bench had observed that the consequences for non-publication of compensation award within the statutory period as provided in Section 11A of Land Acquisition Act, 1894, would follow in the case.

No solution yet to Joka Metro land row

Comments Off on No solution yet to Joka Metro land row   |  June 20, 2013

KOLKATA: Ongoing Metro projects in Kolkata have run into rough weather, thanks to the hands-off attitude of the very person who initiated them in the first place – MamataBanerjee. SubodhJain, member engineering and member staff, Railway Board, who inspected the Joka-BBD Bag stretch on Saturday morning, admitted that it has run into trouble as land is not readily available.

“We are having trouble acquiring land for the car-shed in Joka. We have also not yet received clearance from the ministries of finance and defence for use of their land. We will also require some land belonging to the Kolkata Port Trust for completion of the project. However, work is continuing on the remaining stretch at a good pace,” Jain said during his visit.

While the Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd is in charge of implementation of the project, Metro Railway will have to acquire nearly 25 hectares for the car-shed. A notification was issued for acquisition of 24.47 hectares in the Sakharipota, Rasapunja, Bonogram, Kalagachhia and Hanspukuria mouzas in South 24-Parganas. The land is nearly 1.5 km from the Behala tram depot along the alignment of the Churial canal. While people have refused to part with their land in these mouzas, officials don’t want to make use of The Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978, that allows it to acquire any land, building, street, road or passage.

“This act allows Metro Railway to acquire any land that it may require for a project.

The owners can’t refuse to hand over the land, but can only claim compensation. If they are not satisfied with the compensation granted by Metro, they can seek a hearing. This is when a judicial officer can ask the Metro to increase the sum. However, in no case can the Metro be asked not to acquire land. It is unfortunate that officials don’t want to make use of this act. It is possible that they don’t want a confrontation with the state government which has made clear that forcible acquisition will not be allowed,” a highly placed source said.

Mamata Banerjee, when she was railway minister, had got then President Pratibha Patil to lay the foundation stone of the Joka-BBD Bag stretch. Mamata had then said that the project is of national importance and wouldn’t face any hurdles. After she took over as chief minister, it was expected that the going would be smooth. However, things changed once she quit the UPA. She announced that no land can be acquired by force, even if it is occupied by squatters.

Metro general manager Radhey Shyam, when asked about the problems faced by projects to the north of the city, said that encroachers were posing a problem. “The state government has made it clear that it will do nothing to remove encroachers. The only way to proceed is if the encroachers agree to move by themselves,” he said.

E-auction of two Rajarhat plots fetches Rs 10.8 crore

Comments Off on E-auction of two Rajarhat plots fetches Rs 10.8 crore   |  June 19, 2013

KOLKATA: The Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (Hidco) has again reaped rich harvest by selling off commercial plots in Rajarhat New Town through e-auction. The authorities have fetched a total of Rs 10.81 crore by selling two plots.

The authorities had invited offers for the plots in April this year. The e-auctioning took place on Wednesday. One plot, covering an area of 39.79 cottah, has fetched Rs 9.55 crore. The other one at Action Area I, covering 6.3 cottah, was sold for Rs 1.26 crore.

The response was very encouraging for the authorities, who have recently put up around 5 acre combining three plots in different places of Action Area- II and III for auctioning. The authorities have invited applications from bidders for a 2.5-acre retail-cum-shopping and office complex, a 1.13 acre for an educational institution and another 1 acre for an office complex. The plots will be given on a 99-years lease. The authorities are expecting a huge response for the 2.5 acre plot, as it was only last year that a similar plot broke all land-selling records after it was sold for a whooping Rs 51.13 crore.

The authorities had earlier decided that all the plots in the township will be sold through commercial bidding only. Many of the plots have been put for e-auction, as officials feel that this would bring in more transparency in the bidding process. The entire e-auction process is supervised by quality controllers and bidding is done in a total transparent way. The bidders are given passwords and asked to give digital signatures. The process to bid others takes place online so that no malpractice can take place. In the first such land selling process through e-auction earlier last year, the authorities had sold a 2-acre plot for a 10+2 high school that fetched Rs 10.10 crore.

Another casualty of Bengal land woes — power project moves to Nitish land

Comments Off on Another casualty of Bengal land woes — power project moves to Nitish land   |  June 12, 2013

LAND acquisition woes have led to the exit of one more project from West Bengal. Last time, Tata Motors’ decision to shift its Nano factory from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat was Narendra Modi’s gain. This time, the decision of Power Grid Corporation of India to shift its power transmission project from Karandighi in North Dinajpur to just 50 kilometres away in neighbouring Bihar’s Kishanganj is Nitish Kumar’s gain.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s fierce opposition to forcible acquisition of land, not even in cases of building infrastructure, is costing the state dear as major companies are moving out. Farmers in the state are demanding high land prices and resorting to agitation, but the state government is just not willing to intervene.

Power Grid Corporation of India, a central PSU engaged in inter-state transmission of electricity, failed to get 65 acres of land at Karandighi even after it gave Rs 15 crore to the state government for disbursement among farmers from whom land would be acquired.

Of the Rs 15 crore, Rs 2.5 crore have already been distributed among those land holders from whom about 15 acres of land was acquired. But soon, the land acquisition process hit a roadblock with farmers mounting opposition and demanding more money for their land, which led the PSU to shift the project to Kishanganj in Bihar at the fag end of last year.

Now, the officials of the corporation are knocking the doors of Mamata Banerjee government demanding Rs 2.5 crore. But the officials of the Land and Land Reforms Department of the state government don’t know how to retrieve the distributed money from the farmers. “Around 50 families of farmers have received the money and they might have wined and dined with the money. The officials of Power Grid earlier wanted Rs 12.5 crore out of Rs 15 crore that they gave us. We thought the matter was over. But now they have come to us demanding the remaining Rs 2.5 crore, and we don’t know how to retrieve the money,” an official of the land department told The Indian Express.

It was in early 2011 that the PSU approached the state government with the request for land at Karandighi to set up a sub-station. The state government pegged the land price at Rs 19 lakh per acre and the company gave Rs 15 crore for disbursement among the farmers. The formal process of acquiring land (declaring award etc) was complete in the mid-2012 and compensation at the existing rate (current market price of the land and 30 per cent solatium of the market rate) was declared. By May 2012, the state government started paying money and Rs 2.5 crore was distributed among some farmers who gave up the possession of their land.

But trouble started by August when a section of farmers set up a Bhumi Ucched Birodhi (anti-land acquisition) committee and demanded more compensation for the land. The land acquisition process was stalled. After all the efforts by the officials to win back the farmers fell through, Power Grid decided to quit.

“Had the project come up here, the economy of the area would have changed,” an official of the agency’s unit at Dalkhola in North Dinajpur district told The Indian Express.

However, Commerce and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee said he was not at all aware of the project. “I will look into it,” Chatterjee told The Indian Express.—power-project-moves-to-nitish-land/1123614/0

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