In the eight years that it took the state government to frame a new land lease policy after a 2004 court directive, it adopted three different positions on the basis of four reports, an RTI query has revealed.
In July 2008, the then revenue minister had decided that the new lease policy being framed for 1,577 plot owners in Mumbai would allow them to buy off the land and become private owners by paying an amount which would be a percentage of the market rate.
A year later, however, another minister proposed that the new annual lease rents would be calculated on the basis of 50% of the market rate.
Records show that after the meeting held with the revenue minister in June 2009, the next one took place after over a year, in September 2010, citing elections.
These decisions were then struck down in 2012, when chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said they were “ad hoc”. With revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, he decided to make ready reckoner rates the basis of calculation of lease. Chavan also said those who choose to buy off the land would get class II occupancy, which means they would be conditional ownerships.
The government has no explanation for the eight year delay in framing the new lease policy. “As soon as I assumed this post, I got things on track. The lessees will now start paying revised rents with the new policy in place,” Thorat said.
But former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who obtained these documents, feels the government has lost major revenue in the delay. “There is huge loss of revenue to the state by allowing illegal occupants to stay on public lands, and non-execution of lease deeds that has led to loss of stamp duty,” Gandhi said.