NMMC has abetted landgrab earlier as well

The first two parts can be found at

http://www.asiaconverge.com/2016/07/extortion-land-grab-navi-mumbais-midc-part-i/

http://www.asiaconverge.com/2016/07/extortion-land-grab-navi-mumbais-midc-part-ii/

The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) came into existence on 17 December, 1991. It was formed to cater to the requirements of 29 villages comprising part of CIDCO’s Mumbai project. The local self-government started functioning from 1 January 1992. NMMC administers an area of 162 square km. It operates public bus transport services in areas under its jurisdiction.

NMMC-logoRight since its inception the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) headed by Sharad Pawar has been the dominant political force in NMMC.  Even in the 2015 elections, NCP secured 53 seats compared to just 37 by Shiv Sena, 10 by the Indian National Congress, 6 by the BJP and just one by an independent candidate.

Within the NCP, Ganesh Naik, a local politician wields enormous clout. He was the Thane Guardian Minister in the state government (NMMC falls within the Thane district).  He was the minister of labour, excise and environment in the previous government.

Unfortunately, his fortunes received a setback in the 2014 Maharashtra state assembly polls. Naik lost to the BJP candidate, thus diminishing his family’s influence within NMMC.  This was compounded with the NCP itself losing at the hustings, allowing the BJP to become the ruling party at the staste level. True, Naik’s son, Sandeep Naik, did get re-elected to the Airoli seat; but his other son, Dr. Sanjeev Naik, had been defeated by the Shiv Sena candidate in the earlier elections.

It is possible that the waning clout of both NCP and  Ganesh Naik could have something to do with the toning down of the brutality with which NMMC have tried to bulldoze industrial establishments in TTC-MIDC till last year. But then, this mellowing could also have much to do with petitions filed in the courts by several industrial units in TTC-MIDC.

Sneaky entry

When some people came to know that NMMC had included TTC-MIDC in its territories, few were unduly perturbed. After all, the physical positioning the in map was not wrong.  What was irregular was the manner in which NMMC later sought to extort money from MIDC industrial units.

After all, all SMEs in the TTC-MIDC had taken their land on lease from the MIDC.  The land is owned by MIDC and all units are its lawful lessees. Thus the lease agreements are between the unit holders and the MIDC and not with NMMC.  Development charges are paid by unit holders to MIDC and not to NMMC.

However, all this began changing suddenly.  Unit-holders of TTC-MIDC began getting tax notices from NMMC asking them to pay up property taxes.  Then came the second round of demands – from local politicos inviting entrepreneurs to share their equity and profit with political heavy-weights.

Finally, some of the members of TTC-MIDC decided to fight back.  As their petition states:

In spite of various ‘Constitutional and Legal Provisions’ supporting the ‘Independent and Insulated Notified Area Status of TTC MIDC’, the Entrepreneurs and consequently Industries and the Connected Work Force at large within TTC-MIDC are being unethically and illegally harassed by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) through:

         Demand by way of Property Tax, Cess and LBT which is highly illegal.   

         Gross and blatant Misappropriation of Funds through the Heavy Penalties and Interests which goes unaccounted.

         Slapping Criminal Charges on many of our fellow Entrepreneurs from TTC MIDC .

         Attachment of Bank Account and Movable Properties of Entrepreneurs on frivolous ground.

And all of this when matter stands Sub-Judice at the Supreme Court.”   

No answers still

In order to verify such charges, this author sent an email communication last fortnight to the NMMC Commissioner asking replies to the following questions:

“1. We are given to understand that in 1991, NMMC (Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation) began showing TTC-MIDC as part of its territory.  Is this true?

  1. I was under the impression that MIDC is the sole authority for anything that the lessees of TTC-MIDC require.  The lease agreements are with MIDC.  Payments for water, electricity, sewage and even roads are through MIDC.  MIDC territories are notified and are awarded the status of “Virtual Development Authority” and “Special Town Planning Authority” within the notified area. All acts are therefore to be in accordance with the “Objects & Reasons” published by the state government. Is this true?
  2. I am given to understand that TTC-MIDC is a notified territory, and hence no other authority can encroach on MIDC’s jurisdiction till the area is de-notified.  Is this true?
  3. I ask these questions because NMMC has begun sending bills for property taxes to units in TTC-MIDC.  Can NMMC do this without MIDC’s explicit consent?  Does MIDC have the powers to give such a consent, considering that the territory has not een de-notified as yet?

​ Can NMMC usurp such powers without legislative sanction?​

Is someone in ​ NMMC trying to de-notify TTC-MIDC?  This assumes significance in light of several real estate scams plaguing the region and the state.  There is the episode of the “Glass House” that came up without proper sanction. In fact, some of the units in TTC-MIDC have already filed petitions with the courts to gain clarity on such matters.

I shall be glad if you could help me with answers within the next two days, as I have to write my article before that time.

The reference to the “Glass House”  relates to the illegal construction of a premises (ostensibly by parties close to Ganesh Naik) which had to be finally demolished in August 2013 under orders from the Bombay High Court (http://www.news18.com/news/india/nmmc-demolishes-controversial-glass-house-on-hcs-direction-631910.html).  The pictures alongside show the huge amount of MIDC and NMMC lands that had got usurped.

MIDC-Glass-House1MIDC-Glass-House2MIDC-Glass-House3

 

 

 

 

The office of NMMC’s Commissioner did respond to our email, but without providing answers.  It had forwarded our email to another department, and wanted us to ring up that department for further queries.  Effectively, it had refused to reply to our queries in writing. We wrote back informing him that the meetings could take place later; but that we wanted answers to our queries first. There was silence thereafter.

MIDC-EX2NMMC’s extortions often involve sending inflated bills which are then explained away as oversight or errors (see pix).  Such explanations come in only if the affected party approaches the court, or settles with local politicos.

In some cases, the irregular bills are inexplicable.  For one party, the amount in one bill is for Rs. 51,429,044 (above Re. 5 Crore)  while in the Bill 2 is reduced to Rs.21,250,871 (just above Re. 2 Crore).  It is any one’s guess as to how a bill of Rs. 5 crore could be brought down to Rs.2 crore.

Victims form a front

It was in order to challenge such irregular billings, violations of the MIDC laws, and the extortionate threats that were taking place, that some of the TTC-MIDC unit-holders decided to file petitions with various courts. They have formed a body ‘Small Scale Enterprises Association’ popularly known as SSEA, TTC-MIDC.

SSEA, TTC-MIDC has filed a SLP No 23273 of 2010 with the Supreme Court;

A group of select members of SSEA TTC-MIDC has filed SLP No EE12914 of 2010 at Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has already admitted these petitions and is expected to commence hearings shortly. While granting a verbal stay in the matter of SLPs filed (see list below) the Supreme Court has warned NMMC from taking any ‘coercive action’ on the Members of SSEA, TTC-MIDC.

Some of the coercive methods adopted by the NMMC is asking the banks to freeze the accounts of such ‘recalcitrant’ TTC-MIDC members. Fortunately, the banks have seen merit in the argument put forth by the petitioners and have found ways to mitigate the harassment that NMMC has sought to cause them.

Further with a view to challenge certain recent steps taken by NMMC, and treating them as the ‘New Cause of Action’ and with ‘New Question of Law’ some individual members of SSEA, TTC-MIDC have filed separate Writ petitions with Bombay High Court.  They include:

o   Petition No. 4423 of 2015

o   Petition No. 15051 of 2016

o   Petition No. 15134 of 2016

o   Petition No. 15140 of 2016

o   Petition No. 15466 of 2016

o   Petition No. 15543 of 2016

o   Petition No. 15965 of 2016

 

For now NMMC’s officials have decided to lie low.  As the court hearings begin, and as the matter gets taken to the constitutional bench, expect fireworks to fly.  Someone will have to explain how shares of local units suddenly went to entities closely associated with heavy-weight politicians.  Someone will also have to explain how NMMC decided to send bills to MIDC lessees and how someone thought he could tweak India’s laws. And MIDC’s officials will have to explain how they allowed such extortion to take place in blatant violation of the MIDC charter.

Clearly, India’s march towards industrialization and employment generation will not be an easy one if such collusion between MIDC and NMMC is allowed to go unchallenged.

The series ends…..

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