Trade unions oppose state’s move allowing bldrs to keep surplus land

Govt Wants To Charge Premium To Give Up Claim

Mumbai: 26 March, 2019(Times of India)

Mumbai:The state government has signed consent terms with builders in the Supreme Court, allowing them to retain land they were to surrender for public housing under the nowdefunct Urban Land (Ceilings and Regulation) Act (ULCRA).

The apex court will hear the matter on March 27 even as trade unions prepare to intervene and challenge the agreement between the state and MCHICREDAI, a body representing developers. The Trade Union Joint Action Committee, representing 40 big trade unions in the state, and Nivara Abhiyan, alleged that the state wants to favour land-holders.

The government is banking on recommendations of a twomember committee headed by former Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna, which said the state need not acquire surplus land from builders. Instead, the panel suggested builders pay a one-time premium to the state.

The committee said the state could earn Rs12,000 crore revenue by allowing builders to retain their surplus lands reserved for public housing. On November 16, 2018, the state cabinet accepted the Srikrishna report and decided to seek SC’s approval for it.

In a legal notice sent to the state this month, Vishwas Utagi, co-convener, Trade Unions Joint Action Committee, said: “Recommendations of the committee are perverse and contrary to provisions of law and are aimed at defeating the full bench order which did not allow state government to favour land holders. These developers are actually liable to be severely punished for violating terms of exemption of Section 20(1) of ULCRA Act 1976.”

The notice said many pending litigations pertaining to these violations would be defeated due to the consent terms. These include matters related to the Kansai Nerolac Paints land at Thane, the L&T land at Powai where BMC issued a stop-work notice for violation of ULCRA (L&T challenged it in HC) and redevelopment of factory land at Vikhroli by Godrej and Boyce (matter before Bandra ULC). There is also a dispute over surplus land of Pfizer at Turbhe. In Thane, police had initiated criminal proceedings against some builders for fraud and cheating with ULC lands. In Bhandup, workers of Ceat Ltd initiated proceedings against the company for redeveloping part of ULC land.

Similarly, workers of Deve Paints in Thane initiated proceedings against the company and developer for “illegal development” and workers of W G Forging and Allied Products, Manpada, Thane, started proceedings against the company and developer for “illegal redevelopment.” In a recent development, workers from 42 mills have written to the government that they be given a small portion of this land so they can build houses under the self-development scheme. They have said the state could just give the subsidy it gives to all housing schemes on mill lands for textile workers. But the government wants to resolve these disputes by giving up its claim on surplus lands by charging the premium. With this money, the government could build over one lakh affordable tenements. The Srikrishna panel recommended these tenements be 400 sq ft to 800 sq ft in size.

In Mumbai, the panel said the government can expect Rs1,229 crore by surrendering its claim. There are 131 incomplete schemes in Mumbai, where 5% of private lands were reserved for public housing and were to be handed over by landowners. Till 2012, the state had acquired 262 acres of excess land in the city over 30 years but granted exemptions for 1,851 acres. In 2014, Bombay high court held developers and landowners cannot escape liability despite ULCRA’s repeal in 2007.

The HC empowered the state to recover excess land for public housing. Many builders and Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry had moved court saying the state cannot take excess land as the law no longer exists. Builders then moved SC, which stayed the HC order.