Tumi Maharaj Sadhu hole Aaj! – Real estate land-acquisition in HindMotors

May 30, 2008

Leaflet from Gana Udyog

B.L.R.O. Srirampore: I won’t commit this to paper. However, there is one set of rules for common people, another for the Birlas. I can’t do much from my chair. We are servants who obey government directives. Decisions come from much higher up.

Land-acquisition in HindMotors for real-estate: A Timeline

14th June, 2006:

Mr. Santashri Chatterjee, President of CITU’s Hooghly Committee and MLA from Uttarpara, along with CITU Secretary Dilip Chatterjee, informed the District Magistrate in a deputation that:

“Hindustan Motors factory is established on 744 acres of land. Two-thirds of this land has remained unused. 250 acres of the unused land has been freed by the West Bengal government without cost. And the rest is being sold by the government to the HindMotors authorities at dirt-cheap prices. Unfortunately, the HindMotors administration has not taken any steps towards expanding the factory or developing ancillary industry, inspite of constructive proposals in that direction from our union. They are planning to sell off the land for real estate, and trying to obtain government sanction for that purpose. We hope that the government will not sanction this move, and on the contrary try to set up a new factory.”

We do not know what effect this missive from the respected MLA (who apparently is a member of a government committee for industry establishment and is on the look-out for land in that capacity) had – what we know for sure is that

24th August, 2006:

The West Bengal State Government sanctioned sale of 314 acres to Hindmotors at a throw-away price (Rs. 10.50 crores).

13th September, 2006:

The Land and Land Reforms Department in an approval order changes the nature of the land, so long ear-marked for industry, into “Industrial and Commercial”. Only 54 acres are to be used for an IT Park and auto-parts factory. The rest to be used for township/real estate purposes.

19th September, 2007:

(a) HindMotors sells 314 acres obtained at Rs.10.50 crores at a price of Rs. 295 crores to Shriram Properties, the real estate arm of Rs 25,000-crore Shriram Group (logo: “Empowering people through Prosperity”). Housing major HDFC (logo: I’m empowered to be with you”) had advised HindMotors on identifying prospective developers.

(b) Shriram Properties embarks on partnership with two American private equity companies – Star Wood Capital and Walton Street Capital – in a real-estate business plan of Rs. 5,500 crores.

(c) A special purpose vehicle (SPV), Bengal Shriram Hi-Tech City Private Ltd, set up to execute the project. The three partners have about 33 per cent stake each. HM holds 1% stake in the SPV, as well as 4% of sales proceeds.

(d)The US-based architectural firm HOK (logo: “Ideas work”) appointed to prepare a master plan. The built-up area is expected to be nearly 25 million square feet, completed in six years.

The District Municipality has nothing to say on this. As late as 9th February, 2008, when a deputation is submitted to the Executive Officer of the Municipality, he declares that he isn’t completely aware of the issue. The Officer is not even present. The Municipality website, of course, carries a shining poster of the township on its front page.

2nd February, 2008:

Without any permission, ponds and other water bodies in the proposed site were being filled up, in violation of West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act, 1993.

4th April, 2008:

Gana Udyog complains to the Director of Fisheries about violation of above law. Department of Fisheries issues a directive to Bengal Shriram Hi-Tech City Private Ltd ordering them to stop the illegal filling-up of the water bodies. It is feared that this order will soon disappear under the onslaught of development at the government’s connivance.

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Background

1. In 1948, the land was given tax-free to the Birlas by the government. Most of the land was agricultural. This wreaked havoc on the lives of peasants in the area. Amulya Ganguly, Tarakdas Chatterjee, Monoranjan Hazra and other people stood up against land-acquisition. Two-thirds of this land has not been utilized to this day.

At one time almost 22,000 people worked at HindMotors, a figure that seems like a fairy-tale now. Only 3,500 workers are employed today. These workers carry the constant terror of being handed a VRS, ERS, or Transfer Letter by the management. Lay-off of 1000 more workers is on the cards.

On the one hand the government is laying out elaborate plans to acquire agricultural land for industry, on the other, it is sanctioning the use of land acquired for industry in real estate! This can only be called an injustice of historic proportions on the local people. How many unemployed youths will get jobs? Will there be few low-end jobs like janitors and security guards and that’s it?

(2) According to 74th Amendment Act of the Indian Constitution, 1992, “local government” Municipalities are to be empowered since they “have become weak and ineffective on account of a variety of reasons, including the failure to hold regular elections, prolonged supersessions and inadequate devolution of powers and functions”. Yet, the local municipality has no explanation for the kind of “development” that is going on in its backyard. It doesn’t even have anything definite to say. The question may be raised whether these decisions are being made in the Cabinet, or in some non-government circles.

(3) West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act, 1993 states that it is illegal to fill up any water body that is more than 5 Kathas. We know that of the 314 acres, almost a third has lakes and ponds. Yet, the government took initiative to change the legal nature of the land and fill up the water bodies. The government s violating its own laws in the process of “development”. Under what pressure?

(4) The canal near the iron bridge was once used for irrigation, and is now used for drainage. Kanaipur, Nabagram, Konnogor, Hindmotor, Bhadrakali, Uttarpara, and Makhla drain out their flood waters through this canal. Without proper correction these bodies are being filled, putting locals in the face of environmental danger.

(5) Many families depend on the ponds in the course of their daily lives. What are the alternative arrangements made for such people?

(6) What is being said about the environmental degradation, loss of eco-diversity resulting from the filling up of the water bodies?
As an organization of citizens, we want to present these thoughts to you. We have sent letters of protest to all departments of the government – Fisheries Pollution, Water Resources, etc. We have written to the Central Government. We want our voices to reach out to all people of all classes in the area, we want their opinions, their solidarity.

Not HiTech Housing Complex – we want factories and work for unemployed youth!

Obey the Law – stop encroaching on protected water-space!

Click here to read Leaflet page 1 [PDF, Bengali] »

Click here to read Leaflet page 2 [PDF, Bengali] »

Click here to read Leaflet page 3 [PDF, Bengali] »

Translated by Kuver Sinha, Sanhati

1 Comment »

One Response to “Tumi Maharaj Sadhu hole Aaj! – Real estate land-acquisition in HindMotors”

  1. Pankaj Chowdhary Says:
    December 20th, 2011 at 05:07

    I dont think any loss of interest to any individual who lives around this project area(314 acres). Since 1948 this land was not used. Now this will be used for development of culture and economy. This area will be treated as India’s best business and safe residence centre. It will give employment to almost 25000 people directly or indirectly. Many unemployed can start their own business in and around the township area.This will give thousands of job in unorganised sector during the construction period of the project.On the other hand this area will remain most backward area while entire society will move towards development.People should think the differential benefit of the 2 alternative(one is to give development signal for the project or to sit ideal for 100 more years to take decission.)

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