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Old Posted Jun 16, 2007, 2:44 PM
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Jai Jai is offline
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Join Date: May 2004
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Looks like those mill-land redevelopments may be taller still! The downside: less low-cost housing in downtown Mumbai

Mill owners get more room for boom
They Can Hand Over Non-Mill Lands In Distant Suburbs For Low-Cost Housing, Develop On Prime Central Mumbai Plots

TOI Epaper, 16 Jun 07
Nauzer Bharucha | TNN

BUILDERS’ ISLAND CITY OF JOY: Simplex Mills’ owners, who want to give land for low-cost housing in Goregaon, are building 45-storey residential towers on their central Mumbai land

Mumbai: Owners of defunct mills in central Mumbai, who are setting up malls, hotels and residential skyscrapers on those lands, are all set to avail of an additional bonanza. They can surrender portions of their land meant for low-cost public housing in the distant suburbs, like Goregaon and Dahisar, instead of from their mill properties in central Mumbai, where real estate prices are booming.

A senior official from the state urban development (UD) department told TOI that this is “perfectly legitimate’’ as the provisions of the amended Development Control Regulation 58 of 2001 permits this. Hence, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) will have to accept its share from the mill lands on the fringes of the city instead of in the heart of Mumbai.

The UD official further confirmed that the land to be surrendered to Mhada in the suburbs need not be mill property, but any land owned by the mill owner. In fact, going by a proposal currently with the UD department, a mill could also enter into an arrangement with another mill to hand over the latter’s land in the suburbs.

Last year, mill owners had scored a major victory against environmentalists and activists in the Supreme Court, which allowed the owners to retain almost all their lands.

The apex court upheld the state government’s decision to drastically slash the public’s share of mill lands that had to go towards open spaces and public housing.

Now, in a first-of-its-kind proposal sent to the UD department for approval, Simplex Mills wants to hand over the share that has to go to Mhada not in Jacob Circle, where the mill is situated, but in faraway Goregaon. Simplex is supposed to hand over about 1,100 square metres to Mhada. What makes this proposal unique is that the Goregaon land does not belong to Simplex, but to another private mill, Morarji Mills.

Separately, Morarji Mill No 1 has already handed over 6,096 square metres in Kandivli as part of its own share for low-cost housing to Mhada.

Sources said the Simplex proposal is the first to involve the aggregation of mill lands belonging to different owners. Justifying the proposal, Jaidev Mody of Piramal, which owns Morarji Mills, said, “It is a win-win situation for everyone. Instead of giving bits and pieces of mill land to Mhada in central Mumbai, it is better to give a consolidated plot in the suburbs which can be developed properly for public housing or for mill workers.’’

Mody said that Morarji will get a few crore rupees from Simplex for the land to be given to Mhada in Goregaon. In turn, the freed land in central Mumbai, which would have otherwise gone to Mhada, will be developed by the mill owners.

The owner of Simplex Mills is currently constructing five residential towers, each 45 storeys high, on the Jacob Circle land, in a joint venture with Godrej Properties. Rates in this project have touched Rs 15,000 a square foot, sources said.

Congress MP from south Mumbai, Milind Deora, who was the only politician to stick his neck out to demand a larger share of mill lands for the city, said, “Surrendering land to Mhada in the suburbs for transit camps and rehousing mill workers does not make sense at all. Mill workers are mainly concentrated in central Mumbai and this is a clear attempt to push them out. Besides, Mhada is the loser, because the cost of land in the suburbs is much cheaper than in central Mumbai.’’

Housing activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu said any move to reduce amenity spaces in the island city needs to be deplored. “This could be a precedent for the further deprivation of such spaces,’’ he added.

However, Mantralaya sources said the government is contemplating making mill owners hand over a far larger share to Mhada if the land is located in the suburbs.

The land surrendered in the suburbs should be equivalent in cost to the ones in central Mumbai based on the Ready Reckoner rate. For instance, the government could demand four acres in the suburbs if one acre had to be surrendered in central Mumbai by the mill owner,’’ said a state government official.

The government’s proposal comes in the wake of a writ petition filed by the Girni Kamgar Karmachari Niwara and Kalyankari Sangh, which is representing the former mill workers. The petition has sought a policy that makes mill owners give larger accommodations that match the price difference between prime lands and lands situated in far-off places.
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