The Union Ministry of Shipping has instructed the expert land development committee to ensure that the proposal of Mumbai Port Land Development Authority (MPLDA) that proposed development of 1800 acres of land should function directly under the port trust.
This is contrary to the recommendation that has been made by the panel in its yet-to-be-submitted draft report. In the report, the panel has stated that the MPLDA should be an autonomous special planning authority.
The decision was communicated in a meeting of Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari with committee chairperson Rani Jadhav in Delhi earlier this week. The panel is now expected to incorporate the ministry’s suggestions before submitting its report which maps ways and means to effectively utilise the 28-km stretch of defunct land along Mumbai’s eastern coastline from Colaba to Wadala.
While Jadhav was not available for comments, members from land development committee feel that any bid to bring the authority under the Mumbai Port Trust’s (MbPT) control would defeat the very purpose of setting up such an agency.
In its draft report, the panel had detailed how the central government should amend the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, so as to enable setting up of the MPLDA and at the same time allow the port trust to go beyond port operation and take up land development.
The agency would then be in charge of executing proposed plans for creating mass transit corridors, business and export zones, tourism and entertainment hubs and green open spaces along the stretch.
“The MbPT is a loss-making entity. The idea of setting up an independent agency was to move out of that structure and give it the financial autonomy it requires to take decisions in order to develop the land to its optimal use,” said a member.
Moreover, members point out that bringing the land development authority directly under the aegis of the port trust would also create a major conflict of interest and mar its transparent functioning. “Several of the leases, that have expired long ago or have breached tenancy conditions, are held by some of the trustees in the port trust. They cannot be expected to take a fair call on action to be taken in such cases,” said a member.
There are 3,000-odd lessees on 47 per cent of the total port land; half of these have expired and are caught in legal tussles. Of the total lease-held land, merely five per cent is vacant while 68 per cent is on long-lease and rest have a tenure ranging up to 15 months.
In course of development of the land in future, under the Public Premises Act the unauthorised sub-lessees or those who are using the premises for purposes other than what it was originally allotted for can be evicted.