Civic works delay mars home prospects for returning Indians

Civic works delay mars home prospects for returning Indians

Kolkata: Subhra Dutta, a 51-year-old professional living in Kuwait, is looking to return to his hometown Kolkata because his ageing mother isn’t keeping well, but cannot because the three-bedroom flat that he had bought in Rajarhat isn’t ready.

Dutta’s flat in Uttara Housing Complex, being constructed by Bengal DCL Housing Development Co. Ltd—a joint venture between the West Bengal government and DC Properties Ltd, a private realty developer—was offered for possession in November last year, but flat owners say the township isn’t ready for people to move in.

Civic infrastructure in Rajarhat is not ready—no power; no processed water; even the underground storm water disposal system isn’t ready.

Thousands of professionals, many of them currently living abroad, had booked flats in Rajarhat, hoping to return to their hometown at some point. The demand for properties in Rajarhat among non-resident professionals was so high that some complexes were sold exclusively to non-resident Indians.

But four-five years since construction of housing complexes started in Rajarhat, almost all projects are trailing schedule—some by years.

Some people who had booked flats in a complex being built by Bengal Unitech Universal Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd—a joint venture of Unitech Ltd and non-resident businessman Prasoon Mukherjee—had demanded that payment be linked to progress in construction.

Bengal Unitech has agreed to the demand and rescheduled payment for many people, besides paying flat owners a penalty of Rs5 per sq. ft per month for not being able to deliver flats on time.

“The delay is primarily because of lack of (civic) infrastructure such as roads and power supply," said a spokesperson for Unitech.

But some flat owners say the penalty means little. “The loss is far greater than can be compensated financially," said one woman, who currently lives in the US and had planned to return to Kolkata next year, said on condition of anonymity. She wouldn’t be able to because her flat at Bengal Unitech’s Uniworld City complex isn’t ready.

Similarly, flat owners at Uttara complex have managed to get Bengal DCL to commit that it would pay damages for delay in delivery and do its best to address infrastructure issues.

“We are in constant dialogue with the flat owners and are doing our best to solve the problems," said a spokesperson for Bengal DCL. “But some issues such as power connection and water supply cannot be resolved by us. We are persuading the state authorities to build the civic infrastructure… Regarding (financial) damages (for the delay), we will honour all our commitments."

But for people who had bought property in Rajarhat with the intention of returning to Kolkata, the bad news is it may take up to five years for the civic infrastructure to be ready, according to Mayank Saksena, regional head at property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.

“Residential projects at Rajarhat are way behind schedule… And because of poor civic infrastructure, people can’t move in even if a property is ready for possession," he said.

West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd, the state government arm building the Rajarhat township, admits that residential projects are getting delayed because of lack of civic infrastructure.

“It’s not entirely in our hands," said director general S. Bhattacharjee.

“It was a mistake to allot plots without developing the civic infrastructure. So we have decided that from now on plots will not be handed to developers until the civic infrastructure is ready," Bhattacharjee said.