Rs.4000 Crore Railway Land divided into plots but Zonal Railway clueless

Mumbai: Land might be the most sought-after commodity in Mumbai, but when it comes to the government agencies, even protecting own land is not a priority. In a shocker, a prime railway plot adjacent to Bandra station, estimated to fetch upwards of Rs 4,000 crore, when sold for commercial development, has been neatly divided into farming plots by unknown persons.

Shailendra Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway (WR) who said tough action will be taken in this case. “No permission of any sort has been given to anybody for this farming activity. The staff responsible for the protection and upkeep of the plot will be taken to task,” Kumar said.

How did this start all of a sudden?
According to a senior WR official, it was just unimaginable that such a prime plot, hardly 100 metres away from Bandra station, and walled on three sides, can be misused in such a way. “It does not seem like these farm plot demarcations on railway land came up in a day. The departments entrusted with protecting the land have failed in their job,” the official said.

How much is the land worth?
The land, 43,000 square metres, is on the eastern fringe of Bandra station and has been given to the railway land development authority (RLDA) to facilitate its sale. However, with the tenders for its sale not working out since May last year, the land is in the custody of the estate department of WR.  Railways believe, thanks to the good connectivity of the land, it might fetch over Rs 4,000 crore when auctioned.

What is the bone of contention?
The plot has been one of the most vexed dispute between the state and WR, with the fight going back to almost a decade. It started in September 2008, when the RLDA decided to auction the plot to garner revenue and the state moving the court claiming its ownership. The matter played out at the suburban collector’s office as well the office of the divisional commissioner of Konkan before the revenue minister in December 2012 dropped the claim.

Why is the land crucial?
The plot sale is crucial for the finance of the Mumbai urban transport project’s (MUPT) phase-two works and not being able to commercially exploit it would jeopardise several railway projects. Under railway rules, one-third of the proceeds will be used for a project in Mumbai, one-third for a project in state (outside Mumbai) and the rest for a project elsewhere in India.