KOLKATA: Civic officials and politicians are now asking real estate developers in Kolkata and its vicinity to pay for every activity related to construction. This amount is so significant that developers factor in the additional cost at the planning stage of a project while calculating overheads.
This overhead consists of money paid to civic officials, local police station and especially the political leaders who control building material suppliers and syndicates.
"There are fixed rates now. Developers know which official of which department will charge how much depending on the location and plot size. So we factor this in at the planning stage itself," said a real estate developer who is building two projects in New Town.
Buyers face the ultimate brunt of the spike in the price as developers pass on the additional cost. "We cannot pay this money from our pocket. We have to pass it to the consumers. This spikes the price of every unit by almost 20%," said a developer.
The cycle of corruption starts even before a developer has laid the foundation of the project. He has to start paying local politicians and officials from the moment he plans to develop a plot.
The chain of paying money, which isn't clearly accounted for in books, starts from the local councillor who charges anything between Rs 50,000 and 2,00,000 for every cottah to put his signature on the site plan. And this is before he even enters the local civic body to get his plan sanctioned. "Once inside the civic body office, the file does not move an inch without paying money to a cross section of officials and staff," said a developer in north Howrah.
Pranab Adhikary, the sub-inspection engineer who controlled eight wards of Liluah allegedly charged Rs 1 lakh per cottah to sanction a plan. "There are several officials, starting from the chairman to the peon, who will charge for every service. Depending on the location and the number of finished units, a developer ends up paying Rs 1-5 lakh," said a developer who has been in the real estate business in Howrah for over 15 years.
Besides the civic official, even local politicians and the police station has to be paid.
A Trinamool councillor in APC Road in north Kolkata used to charge Rs 200 from promoters for every sqft developed in the ward. This councillor was denied a ticket in 2015, not for taking money, but because it had become common knowledge.
The police force is another hurdle that a promoter has to cross for successful completion of the project. "Thana rates are fixed. We have to pay to the police even if we have all the required permissions," said a promoter in Kolkata Port area.