The Mamata Banerjee government’s initiative to lease out unused plots at six tram depots to monetise idle assets and make the state-owned transport corporations financially independent has stumbled because of lack of interest among private players.
Sources in the transport department said unused land in three of the six depots could not be leased out because they did not draw the required number of bids. The fate of the other three will be clear once the government declares the reserve price for the land parcels.
The government was aiming to earn around Rs 350 crore by leasing out 373 cottahs of prime land in Calcutta for 99 years to realtors.
No company has bid for 31 cottahs at the Shyambazar depot, while only one has shown interest in the 52 cottahs on sale at the Belgachhia depot. The Tollygunge depot, which has 241 cottahs of unused land, has attracted two investors.
“The unused land at Shyambazar, Belgachhia and Tollygunge could not be leased out as rules require the participation of at least three parties for bidding to start. The initiative to restructure the ailing corporations has run into rough weather,” said a transport department official.
The other three depots — Kalighat, Galiff Street and Kidderpore — have the required number of bids. The Kalighat and Galiff Street depots have drawn four bids each, and the Kidderpore depot has drawn three bids.
Sources said five companies had submitted bids — CESC, Ambuja, Mackintosh Burn, IOC and IOC Petronas.
The fate of the untapped land at the depots will be known only after the government declares the reserve price, below which the assets will not be auctioned.
“The base price for the unused plots in these depots was not announced when bids were invited as the government felt that it could lead to formation of cartels among interested parties. Now, the fate of the depots will depend on how many bids meet the government’s reserve price,” said a transport official.
At least three bids will have to remain valid for the government to lease out land at the Kidderpore, Galiff Street and Kalighat depots.
Senior state government officials admitted that the lack of interest was a setback for the government. “The invitation of the bids was the first major step of the Trinamul government towards restructuring the transport corporations, which collectively need a subsidy of around Rs 700 crore a year,” said an official.
A major reason for the lukewarm response is the condition that 95 per cent of the payment has to be made within a month of the lease allotment, said a realtor. Experts said lack of industrial growth in Bengal, coupled with the lean phase in the infrastructure sector, were also to blame.
Senior state government officials said the state had failed to bring in major players from the infrastructure sector, such as DLF and Unitech, because of political uncertainty in the country. “No one wants to commit a big amount before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections,” said an official.
Having hit a roadblock, the transport department is set to hold a meeting with the finance department to finalise the course of action.
- Galiff Street