Rejecting the demand of industrialists and traders in the city for allowing conversion of leasehold property into freehold, Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Shivraj V Patil said that this could not be allowed, as it would give them ownership of land ‘for peanuts’, when the cost of the property is very high.
In an exclusive interview, Patil said, “We have received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs directing us not to give property to anybody at a cost lower than the price which the property can fetch in the open market. This is exactly what the Supreme Court and high courts have said in other cases.”
He added that if the land has to be sold, it would be done at a market price by floating tenders. “We have been saying that we will not throw you out of this land. You can continue as leaseholders. However, if you want to have it as owner of the property, we will not give it to you. That means at the cost of rent that has been given by you in the last 30 years, you cannot have that property,” he said.
Patil added, “They say the Administrator is not allowing leasehold property to be given as freehold. Why should we give? If it is given, cases are filed against politicians and other ministers, the same way cases will be filed against officers working here also.”
Patil was of the view that the administration could give land on lease for 30 years or 60 years or 100 years. “However, if after converting to freehold the industrialists and traders want to sell the land, why should the Administration allow this?” He said that the same piece of land should rather be given to a young man who wants to set up an industry.
Reacting sharply to the view of the Administrator, industrialists and traders alleged that the policies of the administration were anti-industry and trade. Vinod Mittal, chairman of the Chamber of Chandigarh Industries, said, “We have been instrumental in development of the city. However, now the administration is stating that for setting up new industry we should move to the neighbouring towns. Incentives need to be given to the existing industry.”
He added that all over the country, conversion of leasehold property to freehold had been allowed. “However, it seems we are not citizens of India. The industrialists are not being able to raise capital as the property cannot be mortgaged,” Mittal said, adding that the Administrator should call a meeting of stakeholders and hear their views.
Arun Mahajan, president of the Industries Association of Chandigarh, said that Chandigarh was a planned, living city with a designated industrial area spread over 1,500 acres. To wish away industry to Panchkula and Mohali was nothing but playing with the character of the city, he said.