The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Plot quota raj still rules

Calcutta, Nov. 21: The quota raj continues despite the humiliating indictment by the Supreme Court of the Bengal government and of Justice Bhagabati Prosad Banerjee.

Banerjee received a plot in Salt Lake from the chief minister's quota when Jyoti Basu was in the chair. In a verdict last week, the court saw a link between the allotment and a case in which Banerjee, now retired, was the judge concerned.

Although the chief minister's quota for Salt Lake was frozen once the case against allotments went to the Supreme Court, this method of distributing favours is anything but dead.

In Rajarhat and other new townships that are coming up, the quota system reigns, though the government will argue that it is going by a Supreme Court order. In 1996, the court directed that 5 per cent of the land or flats in any project could be allotted through a quota resting with the chairperson of a development authority.

Ironically, the passing of the Supreme Court verdict in the Banerjee case is expected to lead to lifting of the freeze on allotment from the quota in Salt Lake where an estimated 2,000 plots are still vacant.

Government sources said once a copy of the judgment is received, a transparent system of allotment will be worked out ' but allocation will still be from the quota, which means it will be shut to the public.

Stung by the Salt Lake controversy, the government decided to adopt the 1996 Supreme Court quota norm for future townships. In Rajarhat, for example, nine categories of people are allotted land from the 5 per cent quota.

Senior bureaucrats, officials involved in construction of the project, land losers, political sufferers, social workers, journalists, sportspersons, musicians, doctors and defence personnel can apply for land under the quota. Applications are sought through public advertisements.

Although the system is more transparent than where allotments took place behind doors, as in Salt Lake, it still is discretionary and open to abuse.

Experience has shown that possibilities of corruption exist wherever quotas operate. Successive governments, of the Congress and the BJP, have got embroiled in controversy in petrol pump allotment under the minister's discretionary quota. It led the Supreme Court to abolish the quota.

The lesson from Salt Lake has only caused a tinkering with the method of allotment.

Email This Page