KOLKATA: Drafting uniform land rules for all its areas seems to be one of the biggest tasks before the new Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, once it starts functioning under a board of councillors from October. The challenge lies in the fact that the current norms for Salt Lake and Rajarhat are opposite of each other.
Plots in Salt Lake are leasehold property, while that in Rajarhat-Gopalpur area freehold ones. In Salt Lake—which was conceived and developed as a residential area for the middle-class—residents are technically not the owners of the plots on which their houses stand, but mere leaseholders. The state urban development department leases out plots for 999 years. But in Rajarhat-Gopalpur, the new hub of residential towers, commercial complexes, IT houses and hospitals, residents can buy land and they are the plot-owners.
"The character and nature of land rules in the two townships are ridiculously different from each other. It is to be seen how the municipal corporation comes up with a uniform rule," said Bidhannagar Welfare Association secretary Kumar Shankar Sadhu. Old residents are also curious about how the corporation deals with the matters of land. "It is a complicated issue. As the Municipal Corporation Act has already been notified, it is only to be seen what stand the civic body takes if somebody challenges the issue," said retired state law secretary Satyen Mukherjee, a resident of AD Block.
According to the pre-2012 rules, plots in Salt Lake could not be sold or transferred as all were leased out for 999 years. But flouting all norms, plots and houses continued to be sold or transferred, with some plots changing hands twice or even thrice. In fact, 35% of the around 12,000 plots in the township had been transferred or sold illegally with the help of touts. Though the state urban development department set up a committee to look into the matter, the problem persisted. In 2012, the Mamata Banerjee government decided to legalize plot transfer in Salt Lake.
In Rajarhat-Gopalpur, however, individuals, organizations and cooperatives can buy land for which the municipality collects developers fee and other charges. The freehold property norm triggered a real estate boom in the township as well as on both sides of VIP Road, from Baguiati to the airport.
Besides, hardky any rules seemed to apply to parts of Rajarhat and some panchayat areas, now included in the corporation, which used to be under the Bhangor Rajarhat Development Authority (BRADA) that was dissolved after the Mamata Banerjee government came to power.
Unscrupulous promoters and touts bought land from villagers in these areas at throwaway prices and sold it off at astronomical rates, pushing up land rates. But BRADA did not seem to have any control on these unauthorized deals whatsoever. While 1 cottah under BRADA jurisdiction sold at Rs 10,000-20,000 about 10 years ago, the recent rate was between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh.