The Federation of Grantees of Government Lands (FGGL), which has hundreds of cooperative housing societies as its members, has threatened to appeal to citizens to press the None Of The Above (NOTA) button in the upcoming BMC polls to protest against the failure of political parties to concede its demand for levy of only five per cent of the ready reckoner rate for converting government leased land to freehold as against the 60 to 70 % at present. In this context S BALAKRISHNAN spoke to the federation president Salil Rameshchandra, 61.
When was your federation formed and what is its main objective?
We have been working for more than 11 years. However, a formal structure was put in place only in May 2018. Our members are cooperative housing societies (CHSs) which were granted land by the state government several years ago to promote housing mostly in the suburbs. Mumbai was growing industrially and there was a burgeoning demand for housing for the middle class and lower middle class.That is why the government leased land to CHSs to encourage housing. Now, after more than 40 to 50 years, the state government wants to make huge profits from these lands. The state government’s own Institute for training IAS officers, YASHADA in Pune, had recommended several revenue reforms in 2006 and one of them was that all lands should be made freehold for Re1/- per sq. ft. Other States have already done that long ago.
The Maharashtra government did come out with a policy on freehold land in 2018- 19, but it does not reflect the ground reality. The conversion rate (from government land to freehold land) for Mumbai was prescribed at 60 to 70% of the ready reckoner rate. It is true that a concessional rate of 15 to 25 % was available for three years beginning March 2019. But even this rate was beyond the paying capacity of middle class persons. Little wonder the response to the concession was very poor.
What is your immediate demand?
We are demanding that all residential / CHS land grants should be converted to freehold at 5% of the ready reckoner rate and there should be no time limit for conversion at this rate and that any land holder can convert his land to freehold any time in future at this rate.
Earlier, you had alleged that the state government is reducing premia payable by builders but is unwilling to grant rebate to middle class people who want to redevelop their buildings. Please comment.
What we find disturbing is that builders have easy access to those in power while the middle class has to wait for months just to put across its viewpoint. We have made umpteen representations to the government, but in vain. In fact, ours is a seven-yearlong struggle. Several buildings are in bad shape and need to be redeveloped; but people simply cannot pay the huge conversion rate charged by the government. They stare at a bleak future.
Is it true that your federation is planning to appeal to middle class voters to press the NOTA button in the upcoming BMC polls to protest against the state government's refusal to reduce the tax?
All parties are the same.They make tall promises before the polls, but once they come to power, they forget the very people who voted them to office. This time around, we are not going to let ourselves be taken for a ride. An appeal to the people to press the NOTA button (if our demand is not considered) is definitely one of the serious options which we are considering.
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