Mumbai's public land given at cheap rates to the rich

Mumbai: Mumbai's infrastructural problems are well known. The state administration often says it is strapped for cash. But an RTI application finds out the city has untapped wealth in the form of public lands, which are being rented out to multimillionaires at outdated rates.

Not enough space to live and sometimes not enough space to even breathe. It's always a crunch in this city. Ask for an infrastructure overhaul and the state hands you this figure – Rs 1.3 lakh crore.

But now one RTI application has found this city is sitting on a pot of gold enough to erase that debt. It found that 1200 acres of prime public land in Mumbai is being rented out at outdated rates - sometimes for as little as Re 1 a year. The strangest part - the leases for all these lands have expired.

Shailesh Gandhi, who filed the RTI application, said, “If a contract is not renewed, it means illegal occupation. Some of them on expired leases are fairly wealthy people. People like Shapurji Pallonji one of the 10 richest people in India.”

Also in the list, Simplex Mills two acres in the heart of Mahalakshmi. The 99-year lease expired in 1983 but was never renewed. Now, a 50-storeyed tower is coming up in the heart of Mahalakshmi to be sold at astronomical rates the rent to the state? Rs 48 a year - that's Rs 4 a month.

Not just corporates, but individuals like actor Shah Rukh Khan too are beneficiaries. The lease on the actor's land where his mansion Mannat stands expired in 1981 before he even acquired it. He pays a paltry 2,325 a year in rent.

“If rent is collected at today's rate, then it's 8000 crore of revenue loss,” Gandhi added.
More RTI applications from Gandhi forced a governmental meeting to discuss the matter in 2005. In the minutes of the meeting the state accepts this huge loss of public money, but there has been no action.

Land Activist Arvind Adarkar said, “This is a loss to the state exchequer, it means money is changing hands, it's a huge scam.”

Rs 8,000 crore - these are funds that could change the face of the city but instead are going down the drain.

Mumbai's public land given at cheap rates to the rich