Bank of India to buy Standard Chartered’s office space in Delhi’s Connaught Place for Rs 125 crore

NEW DELHI: Bank of India is buying 36,000 sq ft of office space in the upmarket Connaught Place of Delhi from Standard Chartered Bank for about Rs 125 crore, according to people close to the deal.

Bank of India’s bid was the highest from among a clutch of public sector banks and high networth individuals. The property stands on the outer circle of Connaught Place, the most sought after business address in the capital.

According to property consultancy CBRE, Connaught Place is ranked the fifth most expensive office market in the world, much ahead of Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex (ranked 11th) and Nariman Point (26th). The bid process was managed by property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle. Standard Chartered declined comment on the transaction. Bank of India did not respond to an email sent by ET.

The property in the H-block of Connaught Place was originally taken by Standard Chartered Bank several years ago on a perpetual lease. While selling, however, the Bank has applied for conversion into freehold, which would improve its value.

The property also fetched a premium because of the fact that it is not part of a large office building where usually there is wastage of 25-30% space between super and covered areas, for which the buyer has to pay.

Source: The Economic Times

No solution yet to Joka Metro land row

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 – Mamata Banerjee. Subodh Jain, 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.

Source: The Times of India

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

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

Source: The Times of India

Approach coastal zone authority, HC tells CIDCO

In a petition by the City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) seeking removal of mangroves that cover 80 per cent of the 220 hectares of holding ponds in Navi Mumbai, Bombay High Court Wednesday directed it to make an application before the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) that will, after a site inspection, make the necessary recommendation to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

CIDCO had moved court seeking permission to remove mangrove cover from the six holding ponds in the Dronagiri node for desilting. It submitted that the Dronagri node, opened for development in 1989, comprises mainly residential, port-based industries and warehousing over about 64 acres. The holding ponds are connected with channels to discharge storm water during high tide.

CIDCO’s counsel G S Hegde told the court that the growth of mangroves in holding ponds cannot be covered by a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of January 2011, as it cannot be held as natural growth of mangrove under the notification. Although the notification had forbidden removal of mangroves from ponds, the notification did not use the word “holding” ponds. CIDCO contended that it, therefore, did not require the sanction of MoEF to remove the mangroves.

MoEF counsel Rui Rodrigues said the ponds, as stated in the notification, would cover all ponds including holding ponds and hence, CIDCO cannot proceed with destruction of mangroves. Holding ponds are also affected by tidal events, Rodrigues said countering CIDCO’s claim that mangroves on holding ponds are not natural.

In 2010, Bombay High Court, in a PIL filed by Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG), had imposed a ban on “non-forest activities” in mangrove areas in the state.

BEAG, while opposing CIDCO’s plea, referred to the CRZ notification of 2011, which said mangrove areas in excess of 1,000 sq m were classified as CRZ-1 and required a buffer zone of 50 m. Desilting the holding ponds would result in the destruction of 8,80,000 fully grown mangroves and hence it should not be allowed, it had contended.

Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha asked CIDCO to approach MCZMA within a week. MCZMA, which will carry out a site inspection, has been directed to make a recommendation to the MoEF in three weeks. The court directed MoEF to take a decision in four weeks after receiving MCZMA’s recommendation.

Source: The Indian Express

Make security measures must in buildings: Citizens

PUNE: Over 15,000 citizens, including members of civic organizations and political parties, have asked the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to amend the draft Development Control (DC) rules to make security measures mandatory for new and existing buildings in the city in the wake of recent terror attacks.

The views were received through suggestions and objections to the draft Development Plan (DP) for old city areas.

“Pune is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The state government’s suggestions, which recommend setting up security outposts, fulfilling fire safety requirements and constructing blast-resistant buildings among other things, need to be implemented. Neither the DP nor the DC rules suggest enough steps to meet these requirements,” stated a suggestion.

Following the blast at German Bakery in 2010, the PMC officials had said that the civic body would amend the DC rules making it mandatory for existing and new buildings to have security measures in place. However, no steps have been taken so far.

“Pune is no longer insulated from what’s happening around the world. First it was the attack on German Bakery and then multiple blasts happened on JM Road. Out city faces major security concerns. We insist that the PMC amends the draft DC rules and make required provisions to tackle such attacks on establishments and citizens,” said Rajya Sabha member and NCP city chief Vandana Chavan, adding that the NCP has incorporated this demand in its suggestions and objections document.

A few years back, the state government had appointed an expert committee under former principal secretary of the public works department M V Merani. The panel suggested certain regulations to be followed to ensure better safety in and around buildings. The special regulations envisage security outposts, approach roads with sufficient restraints to prevent direct movement of vehicles towards structures, a control room for security and electronic surveillance operations, light controls, fire-safety requirements and buildings with blast-resistant designs.

The Merani committee’s suggestions were discussed by party leaders in the PMC following German Bakery blast in 2010. One of the suggestions was to make it mandatory for developers to provide their own security set up and make it mandatory for them to submit a security plan with the building permission proposal.

A PMC official admitted that no concrete steps have been taken because the corporators and the civic administration have failed to reach any logical conclusion on the implementation mechanism to be followed.

“The panel appointed to hear suggestions and objections to DP should consider views that recommend improvement in security set up of the city. It is necessary to protect lives of common citizens,” said Ramesh Punde, a witness to blasts on JM Road last year.

City engineer Prashant Waghmare said, “The Merani committee’s suggestions are for public places. However, the PMC has already made it compulsory for housing societies to install CCTV cameras. The PMC will make every possible effort to ensure that security measures are incorporated in the draft DC rules. There are many logistics like cost and maintenance involved in making security measures mandatory and we have to work out the details.”

CCTV proposal still on paper

The PMC had recently approved amendments to DC rules making it mandatory to install 24×7 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at public places in the city. However, the PMC is struggling to implement the proposal. As per the proposal, shopping malls, market places, religious and historic structures, hotels, important tourist destinations, exclusive business buildings and offices of government and semi-government organisations would have to install CCTV cameras and make strctural changes to improve fire safety and security on their premises. The PMC has failed to work out implementation mechanism in this case.

Source: The Times of India