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Strike by lawyers hits land sale

The deserted sub-registrar’s office in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 15: A strike by deed writers and lawyers has paralysed real estate businesses and land registration processes here.

There has been no registration of land at the district sub-registrar’s office and Khandagiri sub-registrar’s office, situated on a common compound, for more than two months because of the agitation.

The lawyers and deed writers have been agitating since September 2.

A source in the district’s sub-registrar’s office said: “Nearly 400 people register their land at the two offices every day. While the district’s sub-registrar’s office generated nearly Rs 50 lakh as revenue, the Khandagiri sub-registrar’s office generated around Rs 30 lakh a day.”

The agitating lawyers and deed writers alleged that the government had hiked the benchmark valuation of land in Khurda district arbitrarily, this being the second increase in a year. “Earlier, the benchmark valuation was raised by 10 per cent in April and the prices were hiked again in September. We are not forcing people to not register their land. They are keeping away as the hike of government land valuation has been done in an arbitrary manner,” said Gobind Patnaik, secretary of the Capital Bar Association.

The District-Level Valuation Committee, headed by the district collector for Khurda district, had enforced the hike in benchmark valuation for the district on September 1.

The government land valuation has increased from Rs 6 crore per acre in 2010 to Rs 8 crore per acre in Nayapalli revenue village.

Similarly, the new valuation cost per acre in Jayadev Vihar is Rs 10 crore per acre against Rs 7 crore two years ago. The government valuation of land on the outskirts of the city, such as in Patrapara, Bhagabanpur and Tamando, has also increased significantly. The valuation used to be Rs 35 lakh per acre in Tamando, which has shot up to Rs 1 crore after revision. Similarly, government land valuation has increased to Rs 1.5 crore as against Rs 75 lakh in 2010 in Patrapara.

However, revenue and disaster management minister Surya Narayan Patro said the decision to hike the benchmark valuation was justified.

“Because of low land cost, the government used to lose large amounts of revenue and at the same time people used to manipulate the land cost. So, it has become necessary to raise the land valuation,” said Patro.

Real-estate developers, on the other hand, are losing crores of rupees as the registration process has come to a standstill and people have even stopped visiting the offices.

“The protest is because of a fear that with such a rise in government valuation, people will not come for registration. But this strike has led to the suffering of even needy people, who want to sell their land to pay medical dues or arrange for weddings,” said a real-estate developer, on condition of anonymity.

“People have made advance payments to real-estate agents and are worried because of the stalemate, as they are not being able to get their hands on the official papers. With no registration work, real-estate developers are unable to sell their properties,” said another developer.