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Relief, twice over

Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh assures a delegation of residents who own homes on forest land that their houses will be regularised soon, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2008 01:51 IST
Dharmendra Jore

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Wednesday assured a delegation of residents who own homes on forest land that their houses will be regularised soon.

The Maharashtra government has come up with a plan under which either developers or people occupying forest land will pay penalty with which the government will convert some areas in the state into forest land to compensate the forest cover lost in Mumbai.

This assurance comes as a relief to the one lakh families in Bhandup, Mulund, Malad, Kandivli, Borivli and Thane who occupy homes in what was declared as forest land by the Bombay High Court in March.

The state government will soon file an affidavit in the Supreme Court to seek permission to go ahead with the plan and regularise the illegal houses.

Under the formula, the state will ask developers to pay Rs 70,000 per hectare for undeveloped land and Rs 1.4 lakh per hectare for plots they have developed. However, if developers, especially of some of the older buildings, are not traceable, residents will have to pay between 70 paise and Rs 1.40 per sq ft. So, if you own a 1,000 sq ft flat, you will have to shell out Rs 1,400 as penalty.

The issue cropped up three years ago when the forest department classified these areas as forest zones under the Maharashtra Private Forest Acquisition Act after the Bombay High Court set a deadline for the state to update land records in 2005.

The state classified these areas as forest land in May 2006 after which construction was banned and registration of property deals stopped.

Sources in the construction industry said the investment in property on the notified forest land is around Rs 30,000 crore.

Most buildings in the affected areas have come up with proper clearances and were legitimate till the area was classified as forest land and the court order in March.

“We have found that residents did not know anything about it being forest land. The owners of such lands transferred their properties to developers who in turn sold the flats to innocent people. So we must protect the interest of these innocent people,” state Forest Minister Babanrao Pachpute told Hindustan Times.

Mahabir Urs, a representative of the non-governmental organisation Citispace said affected residents will have no option but to pay up on behalf of the missing developers.

However, Congress legislator Charanjeet Sapra, who led the residents’ delegation, expects the government will make the developers pay. “We will ensure that the builders who have vanished after handing over the properties pay the penalty.”