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Mumbai: Turf club lease may be renewed

UD dept draws up policy to renew lease of all Schedule ‘W’ land; move likely to throw a spanner in Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s plans to build theme park on the Mahalaxmi Race Course land

Written by Sandeep Ashar | Mumbai |
September 27, 2016 1:44:46 am
shiv sena, race course, mahalaxmi race course, Royal Western India Turf Club, rwitc, mumbai news, india news Situated in the heart of Mumbai, the race course is spread over 8.55 lakh-sqm open space. Express File

Throwing a spanner in Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s plans to build a theme park on the Mahalaxmi Race Course land in Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led Urban Development (UD) department has formulated a new policy that may pave the way for renewal of the turf club’s lease.

Since 2013, the Shiv Sena, which controls the Mumbai municipality, has been demanding that the Maharashtra government take back the prime land leased out to the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), and turn it into an “international” theme park. Situated in the heart of Mumbai, the race course is spread over 8.55-lakh-square-metre open space.

Though the municipality had leased the land to RWITC — which expired on May 31, 2013 — sources said the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act had a clear provision that this land would vest with the state upon the expiry of lease. This ambiguity is owing to the fact that the entire land was originally owned by the erstwhile Bombay City Improvement (BIT) Trust, which was created through an Act of Parliament on December 9, 1898, following the Mumbai plague epidemic of 1896. At that time, all vacant land owned by the municipality and the government were handed over to the BIT, which was eventually dissolved in 1926.

Following this dissolution, such land came to be categorised as Schedule ‘W’ properties. While the BMC has claimed ownership for 2.58 lakh sq m out of the 8.55 lakh sq m open space, the government holds the view that even the portion for which the civic body is claiming ownership was vested with the state government at some point.

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But just as the debate continues, the UD department has drawn up a policy for lease renewal of all such Schedule ‘W’ land. The Maharashtra Cabinet may even take up the policy for approval when it meets Tuesday, according to sources.

There are a total of 260 such properties, all situated in Mumbai. Of these, 101 lease grants, including that for the Race Course land, have expired. Accordingly, the policy lists conditions for renewal of such expired leases for a 30-year period. Even as there is a specific mention that a decision on the race course land would be independently taken at the government, senior officials confirmed that an approval to the renewal policy — the first one of its kind for such land — will open doors for renewal of the RWITC’s lease.

Besides the leases that have expired, there are 108 other lease grants that have been allotted in perpetuity and three others granted for 999 years. The government’s policy has a plan for such grants too, which might not work in the municipality’s favour.

On the basis of a report showing that a large number of such leases have undertaken unauthorised change of use, FSI violations, or have committed breach of lease terms, it stipulates conditions where such wrongdoings could be regularised. But the government has said 70 per cent of the revenue earned through such deeds should be deposited in the state government’s coffers since the “lands originally belonged to the state”.

Civic sources confirmed that they had earlier raised objection to this clause. Meanwhile, it was pointed out that the civic body had even pulled up the RWITC for alleged breaches, including open space violations.

While the Mumbai municipality has been permitted to decide on the regularisation of some of the breaches, the government has spelt out that violations pertaining to change of use and open space must be referred to the government.

Big push for Metro rail projects

The Cabinet Tuesday is expected to approve the second phase of the Dahisar-Bandra-Mankhurd corridor, called Metro II-B. The second phase, extension from DN Nagar in Andheri to Mandala in Mankhurd, would be an elevated corridor despite reservations from affected residents in the western suburbs. The Cabinet had earlier given nod for the first phase (Dahisar-DN Nagar) of the route, which is being executed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. The second phase is estimated to cost Rs 10,896 crore, of which the state government will infuse Rs 2,564 crore, and another

Rs 4,695 crore would be raised through credit assistance. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority will seed in the rest of the capital. In the run-up to the civic polls, the Cabinet is also expected to approve the Rs 14,549 crore Wadala-Thane Metro rail, which will connect Mumbai to neighbouring Thane.

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