The Bengal government has decided to amend the Thika Tenancy Act, which has the potential to unlock over 2,500 acres of solid real estate in Kolkata and Howrah for redevelopment.
The quantum of land in the city translates to 8 sq km or 2,000 acres — equal to 26 Salt Lake stadiums — and will comprise prime real estate in Kolkata. All the land in the city under the Thika Tenancy Act, which is a little less than the size of an assembly constituency, is distributed across KMC wards 1 to 100, or the old areas of the city (excluding erstwhile fringe areas like places along the E M Bypass, Garia, Tollygunge and Behala) and 517 acres in Howrah.
The state cabinet on Thursday took the decision to do away with the G+2 (9.5 metres) bar on structures built on such lands, which will pave the way for the development.
‘Vertical expansion will add to city’s open spaces’
The state has drawn up two possible plans for redevelopment. Plan A allows the thika tenant along with with the bharatiya(sub-tenant) to develop the premises under thika tenancy jointly on their own following KMC building rules. However, even if the thika tenant gets permission for a G+3 building, he or his bharatiyacan’t sell any portion of the building as the land belongs to the government.
The Plan B relates mostly to development of the 12 major slums in Kolkata where the dwellers do not have the funds or banking access to build houses on their own.
Here, the government will step in to build G+4, G+5 standalone apartments and accommodate the thika tenant and his bharatiya. Under Plan B, each person is likely to get a 385-sq ft flat. “The vertical expansion will leave a considerable amount of open space that will automatically become government property. The government will build parks, auditorium in this open space for the residents,” said urban development minister Firhad Hakim.
The government move will definitely add to the supply of land in the city. The increase in supply may also balance land and apartment prices in the city.
However, according to urban development officials, there are thousands of thika tenancy cases between tenants and bharatiyas pending in courts. The government has 30,000 thika tenants on record, though the actual number far exceeds those enrolled.
The government will have the mammoth task of identifying genuine tenants and the sub-tenants. The other problem is the abandoned khatals which comprise a huge portion of land under thika tenancy. These khatals are not supposed to have a bharatiya, which makes it easy for the government to take over the land under the West Bengal Thika Tenancy Act, 2001.
Calcutta High Court lawyer and former thika tenancy controller Sk Afaz Uddin welcomed the move. “Land under thika tenancy often go under the clutches of real estate developers. The government decision will prevent this. And what’s more, the government is taking the initiative of building apartments for the slum dwellers,” he said.
The Bengal chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (Credai-Bengal) has also welcomed the move. “Thika tenancy was a law made to protect unauthorised occupation of land. In many instances, it forfeited the rights of landlords. If the landlord’s right is restored along with securing the right of thika tenants, it will be mutually beneficial. A lot of places where people live in abysmal conditions can get developed. At least the opportunity will be created,” said developer Pradeep Sureka.
Another veteran developer was more forthright. “The Thika Tenancy Act has not served any purpose. It has been a hurdle in development of slums and bustees. The number of genuine thika tenants is few. Normal tenants or sub-tenants and even tresspassers have misused the Act by simply filing a thika claim. With only one controller in Kolkata, the cases simply pile up,” he pointed out.
Source: Times of India