For Mani Group, the 11 bighas adjoining Purbasha Housing Estate, along with a stretch leased to the surface transport corporation, added up to an attractive land parcel and a lucrative window to the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
A Bypass address for information technology (IT) space can push up the price bar by Rs 15 crore per acre, as opposed to an “off the Bypass” tag, state industry estimates.
“The entry into the plot through Maniktala Main Road (as provided by the watery tract alongside Purbasha) would have its own drawbacks. The transport department plot, on the other hand, offers an EM Bypass opening and that makes perfect business sense for us,” Subesh Ray, the senior vice-president of Mani Group, told Metro.
“The state transport department is already looking for a joint venture with us and we would be taking up this land,” he stressed.
Mani Group said it had leased around 38 cottahs to the transport department which it now wants to reclaim. “We are obviously looking for a project over this entire stretch of land and nothing in pieces,” said Ray, justifying the drive for consolidation at 32 Canal Circular Road. “We bought the entire land knowing that the lease with the transport department would end by end-2007,” he added.
On January 5, days after the lease expired, Mani Group workers pulled down a part of the transport corporation depot’s boundary wall and rolled in a pay-loader for construction of a boundary wall along the entire stretch.
For the residents of Purbasha Housing Estate, this was the final blow in what they allege was “an operation to drain out the pond”. This triggered the showdown on Saturday that saw bullets being fired, lathis being wielded and guard dogs being let loose.
“We have civic records clearly defining the plot as a pond. We have been living here for over two decades and have always known and seen this land as a water body. Why did the workers pump out water from the land through the night? Why this hide-and-seek game?” demanded Chandan Neogy, one of the residents spearheading the resistance.
“The pond gone, what happens to the ecological balance of the place? Where will all the rainwater go? Our homes will be flooded,” he said.
Mani Group is sticking to its no-water body stand. “At no point of time did the land records reveal that there was a water body. It may have been a low land but that doesn’t change its nature,” argued Ray. “We have applied for mutation with all relevant documents and if the government wants, we would surely create a water body on the plot,” he added.
And what plans does Mani Group have for the coveted — and now contentious — plot? An IT complex, not another housing project.
“An IT complex on the Bypass makes the most business sense,” said an official of Mani Group.