Ambedkar memorial: Mumbai’s Indu Mill land transfer deal in limbo

The Union textile ministry has objected strongly to Maharashtra’s latest compensation offer of Rs 1,413.48 crore. The NTC has questioned this valuation, demanding a higher price for its land.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai | Published: April 28, 2016 5:26 am
maharashtra government, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, indu mill land, alnd transfer, indian express mumbai The 12-acre Indu Mill land is in the possession of National Textile Corporation. Express Archive

The transfer of Mumbai’s Indu Mill land for a ‘world-class’ memorial to Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar has run into choppy waters, with the Centre hardening its stand against the Maharashtra government over compensation for the land transfer.

The Union textile ministry has objected strongly to Maharashtra’s latest compensation offer of Rs 1,413.48 crore. The NTC has questioned this valuation, demanding a higher price for its land.

A communication dated April 19, 2016, from the ministry has now sought “specific” assurances from the state government regarding the compensation deal before “taking matters forward”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had performed the bhoomi pujan for the memorial last October. The Union Cabinet had earlier approved in principle a proposal to transfer the 12-acre Indu Mill land, which is in the possession of the National Textile Corporation (NTC), to the Maharashtra government. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed between the Centre, the state and the NTC in the presence of the PM and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. But the actual transfer of land has been pending, with the parties yet to fix the exact amount of compensation. Senior government officials conceded that construction work on the memorial could kick off only after the land was transferred.

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The talks have now hit a stumbling block with the Ministry of Textiles conveying in its April 19 communication that the Government of Maharashtra’s compensation offer (to the NTC in lieu of the land) was “in contrast to the recommendations made by a sub-committee that had been mandated to fix the exact compensation amount”. Anil Kumar, an Under Secretary in the NTC section of the textile ministry, has addressed the official communication.

The bone of contention is the land value arrived at by the state. All parties had earlier agreed that the compensation would be in the form of transferable development rights (TDR) or floating FSI that could be sold to realise the compensation amount.

Following a valuation exercise carried out by the state’s town planning and valuation department, the CM-led urban development department had on March 9, 2016, informed the ministry that the land’s value had been fixed at Rs 1,413.48 crore. The NTC, which had originally demanded a cash compensation of Rs 3,600 crore, pointing out that a 5-star hotel had been sanctioned on an adjoining plot, has now questioned this valuation.

While senior state government officials said the valuation had been done as per the prevailing town planning principles and was in order, the Union ministry claimed that the “valuation suffers from various deficiencies and does not take all relevant factors into consideration”. It has further argued that the state government had originally worked out a much higher land value and compensation deal, a contention refuted by state functionaries.

Another point of conflict is a “new condition” set by Maharashtra. The UD department, in its correspondence in March, had communicated that the “amount realised from the sale of the TDR over and above the fixed land value be released to the state government in the form of a grant for the memorial project”.

Objecting strongly to the fresh rider, the ministry has now conveyed that “it was an underlying assumption that the amount which shall be realised from the sale of the said FSI would reflect the market value of the construction potential of the land, and in turn may be considered the fair value of land”. The state has, however, maintained that both the valuation and the rider were “fair”.

The Centre has said the sub-committee had recommended a TDR of 2.5 times of the plot size — over 1.21 lakh square metre, for the plot of land. The Maharashtra government has based its land value on the basis that a TDR of 1.33 times was applicable as per prevailing norms.

During the deliberations of the sub-committee, the state government had earlier conveyed that it was in the process of unveiling a new TDR policy that would clear the decks for release of higher TDR but it is yet to adopt such a policy. The state and the Centre are also yet to amend laws to permit utilisation of the TDR, a precondition set by the NTC for the land transfer. “The valuation (land value fixed by the state) is based on the state’s instruction that the plot can be bifurcated into CRZ and non-CRZ areas, which was not placed before the sub-committee,” Kumar has mentioned in his letter.

“The valuation also considers surrender of lands to be surrendered to the Mhada (for mill workers housing), and the BMC (for recreation) from this land whereas the NTC, which has several pieces of land in Mumbai, would be able to integrate this mill land with its other lands, and can surrender lands from other mill lands for maximising the value of this land,” the letter adds.

The Centre has now said it will require a “specific response from the state” that the TDR permitted would be at least 2.5 times the plot size, “to take the matter forward”. It has further said “no condition” should be imposed on the utilisation or the sale of the TDR. It has also sought a specific assurance from Maharashtra that it will be permitted to utilise the TDR anywhere in the city. Sources said the CM was expected to take up these issues with the Centre now to resolve the deadlock.

For now, the state government is firm that the compensation being offered in “fair and reasonable”.

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