Kolkata: The proposed information technology (IT) township that Vedic Realty Pvt. Ltd was building in partnership with the West Bengal government on the outskirts of Kolkata and where Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd were given 90 acres each should be “scrapped” because the developer has been forcibly acquiring land from locals there, the state’s land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said on Tuesday.
In another indication that the state government could pull the plug on the proposed IT township, West Bengal’s IT minister Debesh Das said that his department wouldn’t “get involved with illegal dealings”. Asked specifically if the project was going to be abandoned, Das refused to comment.
Arson at Vedic village resort and condominium, around which the IT township was being built, on 23 August blew the lid off forcible land acquisition.
West Bengal’s home secretary said on 24 August that land was being acquired at “gun point”.
Following the unrest, it also came to light that four departments of the state government had facilitated the project, which was first supported by the tourism department.
Vedic Realty had started acquiring land at least 10 years ago through a clutch of firms that used the same address. In 2003, the state government had seized 44 acres of land from Vedic Realty and its partner firms for allegedly flouting land ceiling laws.
Vedic Realty moved court but, persuaded by the tourism department, the state’s land and land reforms department in 2004 agreed to an out-of-court settlement under which the seized land was leased back to firms belonging to the Vedic Realty group, according to Mollah.
In early 2008, the state’s IT department had got into an agreement with Vedic Realty and Diamond Group—another real estate developer—to jointly build an IT township.
Under a barter deal prompted by the state government’s inability to acquire land on its own, the private developers were to buy land and transfer to the IT department 600 acres for free, and in return the state government would build a 7km road and the civic infrastructure for the project.
Vedic Realty’s managing director Raj K. Modi, who was arrested on Saturday evening, had earlier said that his firm had till now acquired some 500 acres of land. But the land was not contiguous and Vedic Realty had not secured title of all the plots that it had bought. Vedic Village—the resort and condominium—occupies around 110 acres.
Modi had said the IT township would need 1,600 acres of land in all.
Asked if Vedic Realty had flouted land ceiling laws even after 2004, Mollah said his department would be investigating it. If it was found that Vedic Realty had fallen foul of ceiling laws even after 44 acres were leased to it, the state government would again seize land from the developer.
“However, if land acquired by it (Vedic Realty) has been bought under the proposed IT township, we might not be able to do anything,” Mollah added. Two months ago, the state’s urban development department had recognized Vedic Realty’s project as a township and by doing so, released it of all land ceiling restrictions.