Traders and businessmen of Gandhidham on Friday took out a huge rally in the town, demanding lifting of restrictions on land ownership, which they said, were hindering development.
Under the banner of Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), traders and businessmen marched to the office of Deendayal Port Trust (DPT) and submitted a memorandum to its chairperson, Sanjay Bhatia, in which they demanded reduction in mortgage and transfer fees, and conversion of lease-hold land into free-hold land in the town.
The GCCI in its memorandum said the transfer fee, which DPT levies when a land or property holder transfers it in the name of other, should be rationalised. The organisation also demanded that commercial and industrial land, which is at present lease-hold land should also be converted into free-hold land “so that land and property holders become their true owners”.
In flourishing trade hub in Kutch, land laws a dampener
With the continued development of Kandla port (now Deendayal port) and inauguration of Adani’s Tuna Tekra terminal, three years ago, trade and industry in and around Gandhidham has flourished. This has apparently increased demand for land in the area. But restrictions of transfer fee, mortgage etc make land purchase cumbersome. Also, the restrictions are keeping the land prices artificially high. Hence, the protests by the local traders and businessmen. The protests is also partly fuelled by uncertainties associated with lease-hold land as all lease periods will expire in 2055.
Demanding rationalisation of lease rent, the traders also sought a cut in mortgage charges that the DPT collects when a land-holder wants his plot or property mortgaged for availing bank loan etc.
The memorandum further stated that since repeated representations and meetings with the DPT officers did not yield “positive results”, the trade body was forced to take out a protest rally.
“We had protested in 2008 and in 2013 to convert the lease-hold land into free-hold land. The Central government had accepted our demand and ordered conversion of residential plots into free-hold land. But similar conversion of commercial land into free-hold land is still pending. On top of it, the DPT increased transfer fees and mortgage fees over the last one year or so. This is burdening the plot holders and hampering business and trade in Gandhidham. This is also keeping land prices high and therefore land transfer transactions have been affected,” GCCI secretary Joshi told The Indian Express.
However, the DPT chairman said that the demands of the traders’ body were already under consideration.
“I have already informed that in the next board meeting (of the DPT), we are planning to reduce mortgage fee. The transfer charges are levied as per the contract, but they want a concession on it. I have sent a team of Indian Ports Association experts to examine the issue. In fact, they have examined the issue and they will submit their reports in next 15 days,” DPT chairman Bhatia said.
He also said that the issue of conversion of lease-hold land into free-hold land will be on the agenda of meeting of board of trustees of DPT. “I am planning to bring this commercial and industrial issue before the board meeting and and would take a call on this. If they agree, then objections and suggestions will be invited and then it will go to the Central government (for approval). I had a discussion with the ministry over transfer and mortgage charges, and we are getting it examined weather it has to be done at all ports or only in the case of Kandla. All in all, there is no need for any akrosh (anger),” the DPT chairman said, referring to the Jan Akrosh rally of the GCCI that was backed by 124 local associations and organisations.
The then ruler of erstwhile Kutch state had allotted 30,000 acres of land to Central government for development of Kandla port and development of Gandhidham-Adipur twin towns to rehabilitate members of Sindhi community who had migrated to Kutch after Partition in 1947. Presently, DPT, a trust functioning under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Shipping, controls around 30,000 acres of land while the Sindhu Resettlement Corporation (SRC) controls around 4,000 acres. The DPT and SRC lease plots of land to individuals and businesses for development and collect lease rents from them. If holder of such a lease plot transfers that plot to another party, DPT charges a transfer fee. Similarly, DPT also collects mortgage fee to endorse mortgaging of a property by plot holders for the purpose of availing bank loans etc.