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Lake clubs plumb rent depths

The hub of serenity is more like a hotbed of scams.

If 20,000 families living in pitiable conditions on railway land along Rabindra Sarobar must be evicted to facilitate development of the zone, a clutch of clubs dotting the Lakes is getting away paying just token amounts as rent for large tracts of land.

The 10 clubs, occupying more than 650 cottahs of prized Sarobar land among them, pay anything between Rs 500 and Rs 8,000 every month.

'The present market value of the total land rented out to the clubs would be Rs 96 crore,' said an official of the CIT.

The prevailing market value of land in the area is Rs 20 lakh a cottah. 'But the land value is, instead, calculated at Rs 9,000 a cottah,' he explained, adding that many of these clubs enjoy free access to the waterbody.

Rabindra Sarobar, formed in the 1920s, covers 192 acres (119 acres land and 73 acres water). The annual maintenance cost borne by the CIT amounts to Rs 54 lakh.

Against this, total annual lease rent and service charge paid by these institutions to the CIT amounts to Rs 3.96 lakh. From eight cricket coaching centres the earning is Rs 1.4 lakh every year.

'We will revise the lease rent of the clubs and cricket coaching centres once the public-private participation scheme is implemented,' a senior CIT official said on Monday.

'The land and flat allotment advisory committee has discussed the issue in its last meeting and things will be finalised soon,' he added.

The employees' unions have demanded a substantial hike in the club rents. 'The CIT is facing a severe financial crunch and the authorities must explore the possibility of raising the rents,' said Development Employees' Joint Action Committee joint secretary P.B. Nag.

The club authorities insisted they were not paying less for more. 'We maintain our premises and the surroundings with no help from the CIT,' claimed Sandip Majumdar, secretary, Calcutta Rowing Club.

'When our club took the land here way back in 1928 there were no takers. We set up our building and spent money on beautification,' said Subrato Guha, secretary, Lake Club. 'We have to pay taxes to Calcutta Municipal Corporation as well as to the CIT and yet have to make our own arrangements for dumping garbage,' he alleged.

Indian Life Saving Society (ILSS) said the club pays the rent fixed by the authorities. 'We do not put any pressure on the authorities,' said Sukamal Chakraborty, secretary of ILSS, when asked about the influence these clubs allegedly have on the CIT.

Several other clubs including the Bengal Rowing Club claimed to have spent large amounts on beautification and cleaning of the waterbody.

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