Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NICE benefits as govt snores

NICE benefits as govt snores
P M Raghunandan, Bangalore, Jan 27, DHNS:

The State Law Department appears to have decided to play deaf and dumb on the controversial Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project.


The Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Area Planning Authority (BMICAPA) has written half a dozen letters since 2006 seeking legal opinion on whether the multi-crore project needed its formal approval or not. But the Law Department has turned a blind eye. The latest letter was written on September 11, 2009.

The result: BMICAPA is in a dilemma. It has no clue whether it is legally correct in allowing the project promoter, Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE), to proceed without its approval or not. It is desperately awaiting the Law Department’s advice to decide its next course of action. The fact that the project has kicked up a storm of late has made the officials of the authority anxious.

The project envisages building 111 km of expressway between Bangalore and Mysore, a 41-km peripheral road, a 9.1-km link road (both around Bangalore) and five townships under Build, Own, Operate and Transfer basis. The project promoter has so far completed nearly 50 km of road.

Approval mandatory
According to letters written to the Law Department secretary, copies of which are available with Deccan Herald, BMICAPA has stated that its approval was mandatory for any activity, either by a private or a government agency, under Sections 15 and 17 of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning (KTCP) Act.

Besides, any individual or a person taking up a developmental project has to pay the betterment fee in accordance with Section 18 of the KTCP Act.

The betterment fee, if imposed on the project, runs up to several hundred crores of rupees, state government sources said.

“NICE is a private company and its project BMIC falls in the BMICAPA jurisdiction. The company has not taken approval of the Authority... The company representatives have informed us that there is a Supreme Court order that there is no need for any approval from any authority for some infrastructure projects approved by the government.

It (company) has also said it could not take the approval as the entire land required for the project has not been handed over to it yet. It has not even submitted the SC order in this regard,” the BMICAPA member secretary has stated in a letter dated December 19, 2006.

Having said so, the Member Secretary has also sought the Law Secretary’s opinion in this regard so that the authority could take appropriate action.

In another letter to the Law Department on June 13, 2007, BMICAPA has expressed its helplessness for not being able to reply to public queries with respect to the project under the Right to Information Act.

Only thematic plan
“The Authority has only a thematic plan of the project. Therefore, it does not know exactly where the project is being implemented in its area. But hundreds of farmers coming under its jurisdiction have been seeking information as to where exactly the project will be implemented or whether their land will be acquired, under the RTI... We have not been able to provide them any information,” BMICAPA sources said.

When contacted, Law Secretary S Siddalingesh said he was not aware of any letter from the BMICAPA and that he could not say anything off hand.

NICE representative Manjunath said the project secured its legitimacy from a special government order and that there was no need for any secondary approval. Moreover, BMICAPA was formed based on the project framework agreement which clearly says that the project obtained exemption from all levies and taxes.

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