Grounds leased to gymkhanas to be hiked | india | Hindustan Times
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Grounds leased to gymkhanas to be hiked

City collectorate seeks to hike the lease rents of the various grounds leased out to the gymkhanas, reports Dhaval Kulkarni.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2006 21:55 IST

The Mumbai city collectorate has mooted a proposal to hike the lease rents of the various gymkhana grounds in the city.

Spread over 1.70 lakh square metres of prime land in South Mumbai, these grounds were leased out by the British to the various gymkhanas, many of them almost a century ago on leases ranging from 30 years to 99 years.

As the lease rents have not been hiked ever since they have been leased out, the gymkhanas pay rents as low as Rs 603 onwards to the city district collectorate. Now, the Collector has proposed hikes starting from a minimum of 100 per cent.

In the year 1999- 2000 when some leases had expired, the collectorate tried to renew the leases with a high hike based on the market values in the rents. This forced the gymkhana managements to approach the High Court (HC), which imposed a stay on the hike.

However, District Collector Valsa Nair Singh said they were planning to arrive at an "out of court" settlement, which involved hiking the rents in a "reasonable range."

"We will send a few alternative proposals to the government with different slabs of rents based on factors like the income of the club, the market rate and the ready reckoner rate. This is an attempt to make the system market friendly and also ensure that the government earns more revenue," she added.

Two rounds of meeting had already been held with the gymkhana managements and more would be held before a solution was hammered out and a proposal sent to the state revenue department. Though Singh refused to reveal the exact extent of the hike in the rents, she indicated that it would be in the range of a minimum of 100 per cent and above.

"Many gymkhanas charge exorbitant fees from the members. This is an attempt to see that the government gets a charge in the revenue of these elite clubs. The smaller gymkhanas which have low incomes may get off with lower rents," added an official.

However, officials in the collectorate admit that the state should have increased the rent progressively over in years instead of suddenly hiking it at one go, which has rankled the leaseholders. Infact, a lease which expired in 1970 was renewed in 1999!

Apart from paying annual rents in advance to the collectorate, the gymkhanas and clubs also have to pay them Rs 50,000 for each function held in the premises. This fee for obtaining the No- Objection Certificate (NOC) from the clubs has been hiked only last from Rs 25,000.

While most gymkhanas allowed the public to access their land, some like the Cricket Club of India (CCI) and the Bombay Gymkhana have paid enhanced rents to close the grounds. The clubs are supposed to maintain the grounds and ensure that no encroachments come up there.

However, smaller gymkhanas like the Wilson College and Grant Medical Gymkhana say that a huge hike in the rents will hit them hard, as they are already hamstrung by the lack of ability to take in members and high maintenance charges.

Said VJ Sirwaiya, Principal, Wilson College, which is in possession of the gymkhana since 1910: "Raising the rent in an arbitrary manner will kill sports. Last time the authorities tried to send us a bill levy a rent of Rs 13 lakh, which is an exhorbitant amount. An exception needs to be made for educational institutions like ours."

Added Dr Pravin Shingare, Dean, Grant Medical College: "Though we expect the rents to increase, they must be in a reasonable range."

When contacted, officials at the Bombay Gymkhana refused to comment. However, club custodian CI Johnson, said the matter had been taken up at the highest level and the management committee members were looking into it.

However, officials in the collectorate admit that the state should have increased the rent progressively over in years instead of suddenly hiking it at one go, which has rankled the leaseholders. Infact, a lease which expired in 1970 was renewed in 1999!