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Chief minister Mamata Banerjee eyes sale of unused government buildings through auctions

The chief minister gave the directive during a video conference with the secretaries of various departments, district magistrates and officials of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation

Pranesh Sarkar Calcutta Published 21.06.24, 07:38 AM
Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee File image

Mamata Banerjee on Thursday asked senior officials to prepare a list of unused government buildings and frame a policy to sell those structures through auctions.

The chief minister gave the directive during a video conference with the secretaries of various departments, district magistrates and officials of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.


Sources in Nabanna said the instruction suggested the government wanted to generate as much revenue as possible ahead of the 2026 Assembly polls.

"Earlier, the state government had allowed the departments to sell off their unused plots through auctions.... Now, the government has taken a step further and decided to sell unused government buildings. It is clear that the government needs a handsome amount to run its welfare schemes ahead of the 2026 Assembly polls," said a senior bureaucrat.

Sources who attended the meeting said the chief minister had made it clear that the finance department would monitor the process to monetise the unused government buildings, the list of which would be prepared by various departments and the district magistrates.

Although Mamata did not mention the kinds of buildings which could be sold out, officials said she had perhaps hinted at several structures that had been constructed in the past 10 years. A majority of those buildings are lying unused.

Sources aware of the development said more than 45 Pathasathis — motels along highways — were constructed in the past 10 years, but most of them remained unused.

Around 80 Karma Tirthas — shopping complexes for unemployed youths — were built in the past 10 years but none became operational because of a lack of interest from the unemployed youths. Large numbers of Kishan Mandis — set up in each block — lie unused because of a lack of interest from the farmers.

"The chief minister perhaps meant these buildings.... Once the departments and the district magistrates submit their reports to the finance department, it would be clear how many of those buildings could be put up for auction," said a senior official.

The sources said the chief minister had made it clear that the state wanted to generate more revenue to run its welfare schemes which would be her weapons to counter the BJP in the 2026 Assembly polls.

"The state spends more than 30,000 crore to run several welfare schemes, including Lakshmir Bhandar, which gave dividend to the ruling party in the recent Lok Sabha polls where the Trinamool Congress bagged 29 seats. Now, the chief minister has decided to shoulder the burden of providing 50 days' jobs to the MGNREGA card holders and give dwelling units to 11.36 lakh rural poor under the rural housing scheme since the Centre had stopped the release of funds under the schemes. She would require 18,000 crore to shoulder the additional burden," said a senior official.

Sources in the state administration said selling off the unused government buildings would be easier said than done as most of those structures are located in areas away from marketplaces.

"This is the only reason why these buildings could not be made operational even if the state had earlier tried to lease them out.... Now, it remains to be seen whether the private investors would come forward to buy these properties," said a bureaucrat.

At the virtual conference, the chief minister also laid stress on cutting down the expenditure.

She hinted during the meeting that she could merge several departments to cut down administrative costs. Earlier, Mamata had brought down the number of government departments to 52 from 62 by merging several departments.

"Now, the chief minister wants to merge some other departments.... This would cut down some administrative expenditure under the head of use of cars and cost of running offices," said a senior bureaucrat.

Mamata expressed her dissatisfaction over the alleged misuse of electricity in the government offices. "The chief minister feels that if the office heads remain cautious about this, the expenditure on electricity bills could be cut down to some extent," said an official.

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