The sprawling residential complex coming up a few metres behind Ruby Hospital here is moving towards its completion date at break-neck speed. Urbana’s plush signature flats are a peep into luxury, comfort and opulence. This project, promoted by six top real estate players under the Bengal NRI Complex Ltd, however, has come under the scanner of the Mamata Banerjee government. Urbana is a joint venture between the state government and Shrachi, Emami, Sureka, MKJ, JB and Nahata Groups. The state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been probing the land deals that led to the purchase of 67 acres. The state government believed that the erstwhile Left government had facilitated the land for just Rs 27 lakh way back in 1994.
Promoters of the Bengal NRI Complex have opted not to publicly give credence to the CID probe. Urbana’s signature flats, which were first unveiled on a classy evening of wine and art in 2010, were priced between Rs 1 crore and Rs 4 crore. The prices may have gone up in the last two years and the project is now worth crores of rupees. With its first tower already booked, booking is underway for the remaining three towers. The CID report says that the Left government leased the 67 acres between 2006 and 2008 for a paltry Rs 23.27 crore when it could have cost double the amount per acre. “No one has come to us and the work is on. According to us there is no credence to it (CID report). The land was brought by us 20 years back from farmers and landlords. It wasn’t even government land,” said one of the promoters to this newspaper blaming political vendetta behind the probe. “The land had low value when we bought it. Land prices have gone up only during the real estate boom and prices near Urbana have gone up because of our projects,” said another promoter.
The case is, however, more complicated than it seems. The Left regime had fought a court battle to seize the private land between 1988 and 1994 under the Land Reforms Act. The Left government finally signed an MoU in 1994 with two of the former owners, Vinay Maloo and Surendra Nahata, and agreed to lease the land for 99 years. However, the deal finally came through only in 2006 and the state government had to adhere to 1996 land prices as the deal had been made effective that year. Also under investigation are the private developers increasing their stake from the predetermined 25 per cent to 74 per cent in the project.
The CID has named Surjya Kanta Mishra, Goutam Deb and Abdur Rezzak Mollah in its report. The Sunday Standard has learnt that while the CID submitted the report two months ago, the state government is yet to initiate any criminal proceeding against the corporates or the CPI(M) leaders involved in the deal. The CPI(M) in the meantime has instructed its leaders to maintain silence till the accused leaders are formally questioned. “There is no material in that issue. I don’t think they have a case. Mamata Banerjee is trying to build fake cases against a number of us but it doesn’t bother us. Let her try to prove us guilty… The Left government gave land in 1990s for a residential complex for NRIs especially doctors who would come visiting the city,” said a Central Committee member of CPI(M).
The TMC-led state government wants to train its guns on CPI(M) leaders ahead of the crucial Panchayat polls. But with the case being far from simplistic, Didi will have to tread carefully.
- Sunday Standard