Sunday, February 20, 2005

Crack down on Bangalore land sharks soon

Crack down on Bangalore land sharks soon:

India Asian News Service

Land grabbers beware. The Karnataka government has finally woken up to the fact that thousands of acres of its valuable land in and around this city have been either encroached upon or grabbed by land sharks over the past several years.

Riding on a real estate boom and rapid expansion of the hi-tech city touted as India's Silicon Valley, unscrupulous elements have been appropriating government and revenue lands in and around the city in connivance with officials through middlemen.

A survey undertaken by the Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) recently has brought out some startling facts and figures, indicating that around 177,435 acres of government land, valued at Rs 27.84 billion, has been occupied by unauthorised people.

"The survey also identified 24,142 buildings constructed on these illegal lands without clearances and defaulting on payment of property taxes. The state revenue department has found that 14,333 acres in the green belt area around the city were not spared by land sharks," state Information Minister B. Shivram told IANS here.

In a bid to recover the encroached lands and initiate stringent action against the grabbers, the state government has decided to set up a committee headed by the principal secretary of the revenue department.

"The committee will coordinate with BMTF to launch legal action against the illegal occupants. Notices will be served on the encroachers as well as the owners of the buildings seeking explanation," Shivram said.

In case some of the lands or buildings were being used for civic purposes, the government may spare them from eviction or demolition in public interest, provided the occupants come forward to regularise the property and pay up the cost.

"The government has not only lost its hold on these lands but is losing about Rs.50 billion ($1.1 billion) revenue annually in terms of property taxes and development costs," Shivram lamented.

Unauthorised constructions in prime lands measuring 1,273 acres valued at Rs.490 million were also discovered by the revenue authorities.

"The value of these lands has been estimated at nominal rates and not at the present market rate," Shivram stated.

Of the farmlands around the greenbelt, it has been found that several were being used for non-farming activities without obtaining clearance and paying conversion costs to the government.

Also warning of stringent action against bootleggers, the minister said the government would bring an amendment to the excise law for making production and trading of illicit liquor a non-bailable offence, with three years of imprisonment as penalty.

"The amendment will be introduced in the state assembly during the budget session next month," Shivram added.


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