Kolkata: Singed by agitations in Singur and Nandigram over land acquisition issues, the West Bengal government is preparing a generous compensation package for those to be displaced by Kolkata’s showcase East-West Metro project: a 13.77km mass rapid transit that would connect Howarh in the west and the city’s information technology hub, Salt Lake Sector V, in the east.
Cautious approach: A file photo of Writers’ Building in Kolkata. The government is working on one-time relief for families, hawkers and shop owners who will be affected by the East-West Metro project. Photograph: Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
The government doesn’t need to acquire large tracts of land for this project — according to initial estimates it could be as little as 3 acres. But, because the underground railway track will run through populous central Kolkata, as many as 620 families might have to be evicted.
The Rs4,674 crore project, which is being debt-funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, will also displace a large number of shops and hawkers.
“Initially there was some resistance from shop owners. Most of them operate out of rented spaces. So they were worried that they would get nothing. But, we aren’t excluding anyone, even people without valid tenancy documents would be resettled,” said an official of the state’s land and land reforms department on condition of anonymity as he isn’t authorized to speak to the media.
Most residential properties that will be demolished have large number of tenants. They, too, were worried that they would get a raw deal, but the government has decided to resettle them not far from their present dwellings.
Two plots in central Kolkata have been identified — one measuring almost a third of an acre, and the other, a little over an acre — where the government will build condominiums for those displaced by the project. “We will make sure that each family gets as much space as they currently have,” said the official.
This is over and above the market rate that the government will pay in cash to homeowners. That apart, people who have leased out properties would be compensated for the loss of income from rent. “This one-time compensation would range from Rs60,000 to Rs2 lakh, depending on the size of the property and present income from it,” said the state government official.
The deal couldn’t have been sweeter for houseowners. Many of them have been fighting legal battles with tenants for years—they can neither evict them nor raise rent. “We don’t expect any resistance from property owners… for many, the acquisition will lead to unlocking of value,” said the official.
Shop owners who will be forced to move would also receive a one-time compensation for loss of business till resettled. This would range from Rs50,000 to Rs1 lakh, depending on how much value added tax, or VAT, they pay at present. Even those without valid VAT or sales tax registration, would receive Rs25,000.