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Tatas decry sub-lease rap

Jamshedpur, Sept. 23: Tata Steel has broken its silence on the controversial sub-lease issue, cautioning that the East Singhbhum district administration’s order on Friday to stop construction work in sub-leased plots would not only hamper the city’s development but also trigger law and order problems.

The company’s vice-president (corporate services), Sanjiv Paul, feared that the suspension of construction work, as advised by the deputy commissioner (DC), seemed to be a precursor to subsequent action against the company.

“We believe this amounts to infringement of Tata Steel’s legal right according to the land lease agreement signed in 2005. Such an action will render thousands of daily wage earners, who are engaged in construction work, jobless and this in turn would result in law and order and other societal problems besides halting the development of the town. We have requested the DC to reconsider the decision and lift the suspension on construction work,” said Paul.

The senior official said that after getting the DC’s letter on Friday, the company asked all the 59 new sub-lessees (sub-lease approvals accorded by the state to private parties after the renewal of leases in 2005) to stop construction on their plots with immediate effect.

“We decided to co-operate with the government and asked the sub-lessees to suspend construction work. However, we are concerned with the abrupt decision taken by the government without any explanations to the company and the sub-lessees,” said Paul.

Besides, the official contested factual accuracy in development commissioner Debashish Gupta’s report, which he claimed even misplaced legal conclusions.

Based on the findings of the report that was submitted in 2010, chief minister Arjun Munda last week ordered the stopping of all construction work on 482 acres of surplus land sub-leased by Tata Steel to private parties.

“The report should not have become the basis for taking such an action. It will have serious implications not only on the legal rights of Tata Steel over the land and township, but also on the livelihood of many in Jamshedpur,” Paul said.

Giving a background, he said the 15,725 acres over which Jamshedpur is built was acquired at the cost of Tata Steel by the then provincial government under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and conveyed to the company in absolute ownership by Deeds of Conveyance of 1912 and 1929.

“In spite of the fact that the status of the land changed from ownership to leasehold, the basic rights of Tata Steel over it were consciously not altered by the state government, which is evident from the provisions of Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950,” he said.

The lease agreement signed between the state and Tata Steel in 1984 and renewed in 2005 was perpetual, to be renewed every 30 years only for rent revision.

The lessees of Tata Steel before the agreement were recognised as sub-lessees of the state vide the statute and the company was allowed to continue to sub-lease post this agreement, with approval of the state.

To enable this, an appropriate machinery committee (AMC) comprising representatives of the state administration as well as the company was formed to scrutinise all proposals for sub-leasing of Tata Steel’s land.

The lease also provides for the fact that only Tata Steel can forward proposals for sub-leasing to the AMC.

Referring to this, Paul said all sub-leases proposed by the company were in consonance with terms of the lease. “All the 59 proposals of sub-lease have been processed through the AMC and duly approved by the state government.”

Meanwhile, the DC’s office sent its second letter on the issue to Tata Steel yesterday. The letter was attached with a format comprising 19 points whereby the steel major was asked to provide various details related to sub-leases such as name of the applicant, allotted land with ward numbers and for what purpose the land was allotted — industrial, commercial or domestic.

The company was asked to furnish the details within two days of receiving the letter.


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