The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt signal to shrink Tata Steel land

Aug. 30: The state government today informed Jharkhand High Court that it had decided to partially renew the land leased out to Tata Steel in Jamshedpur and adjoining areas at a higher price for a period of 30 years.

Advocate-General Anil Kumar Sinha told a division bench of Chief Justice V.K. Gupta and Justice Hari Shankar Prasad in Ranchi that of the five schedules of the earlier lease, the renewal would be done only for first three categories — production area (factory), housing facilities and civic amenities.

A decision on the other two categories — land sublet by the Tatas and vacant land — would be taken later, Sinha said. The renewal will over only around 4,880 acres (around 39 per cent) of the 12,709 acres leased earlier.

A letter addressed to the Jamshedpur deputy commissioner, issued by the state land revenue department today, has asked the official to prepare a draft of the lease agreement at the earliest for renewal of lease in the three categories on the condition of “maximum revised lease rent”.

The advocate-general submitted the letter to the court. The court, however, refused to drop contempt proceedings against the state government for failing to decide the lease renewal matter within the timeframe fixed by the bench.

The contempt proceedings against the government had been filed by Tata Steel.

The break-up for the three categories is: first schedule (production process) 987.80 acres, second schedule (housing) 1686.89 acres and third schedule (civic amenities) 2205.98 acres.

The advocate-general sought four months to enable a decision on the remaining schedules, but the judges asked the state to finalise the matter by December 2.

On Sinha’s request to drop the contempt case, the court observed that keeping in view the history of the state, it could not quash the proceedings at the moment. “You either take the decision to renew or refuse it, but during the pendency of the decision, the court cannot revoke the proceeding,” the bench observed.

Land revenue minister Madhu Singh had said in July that changes in the lease agreement were necessary as Tata Steel had been violating it for a long time and had failed to pay Rs 5,937 crore due to the government as on December 31, 2001.

“Not only are they (Tata Steel) violating the lease agreement, they are also sub-letting land without the government’s apporval. In the case of Jubilee Park, they have sold the land to Nicco, which is using the land for business purposes,” the minister had said.

Singh had added: “Now the government itself will sublet the land under the two schedules and encourage other business houses to set up industry in those areas.”

The Bihar government had entered into a 40-year lease agreement with the Tatas in 1984. The agreement had retrospective effect — from 1956 — and expired on December 31, 1995.

The Tata Steel management, however, chose to remain neutral. “We will abide by the court order. But the details are yet to come,’’ said Sanjay Singh, head of media relations.

But industry bodies expressed concern over the government’s stand. “The renewal of the lease for just 39 per cent of land is not in the interest of development of the city, in particular, and the state in general. One can very well see the plight of areas that are not looked after by Tisco. The same might be the fate of land taken away from the company’s lease,” said Deepak Dokhania, vice-president of Adityapur Small Industries Association.

President of the Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industry Nirmal Kabra said the quality of life in the city would suffer if the state government takes over portions of land now under the Tata Steel lease.

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