The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Task force to tackle building blocks

State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya has promised city developers that the government will form a special task force to look into all building-related issues in and around Calcutta.

A delegation of City Developers’ Forum (CDF), the umbrella body of realtors in Calcutta, which met Bhattacharya at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday, has expressed satisfaction at the “positive response” of the government to a string of suggestions to improve the investment climate in the real-estate sector.

“The minister assured us that a special committee with representation from various stakeholders would be formed to look into the issues plaguing the industry,” said CDF president Jugal Khetawat. The developers suggested the inclusion of a practising architect and an industry representative in the task force.

The CDF plea roster sought annulment or modification of the Urban Land Ceiling Regulation Act (ULCRA) of 1976, reduction of municipal tax on property to “a rational level”, making sanctioning fees “more reasonable” and bringing stamp duty on a par with other states. The forum also submitted a detailed research paper on prevailing rates in other metros to the urban development minister. A similar presentation has gone out to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

“While the minister said the Land Ceiling Act can’t be repealed under the present circumstances, he sought suggestions on how the legislation can be made more developer-friendly,” said Sushil Mohta, honorary secretary of CDF.

The forum has also submitted city-wise data on municipal tax, and minister Bhattacharya has promised to look into restructuring possibilities.

ULCRA was legislated to ensure release of large plots of land held by rich landlords so that mass housing colonies could be constructed on the freed land. The act meant nobody could hold more than 500 sq m of land (7.5 cottahs) in metros and other state capitals, while for ‘B’ and ‘C’ grade cities, the permissible land ceilings were 1,000 sq m and 1,500 sq m, respectively. Larger than permitted holdings were automatically vested with the ULCRA.

Architect Dulal Mukherjee, who represented the Indian Institute of Architects, Calcutta Chapter, at the interface, agreed that the government’s response to the problems faced by the developers’ fraternity was “very encouraging”. Mukherjee suggested inclusion of town and environment planners, structural engineers, traffic-control experts and captains of industry in the task force as back-up, “for value-addition”.

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