New rules could triple Kochi metro's land acquisition cost

New rules could triple land acquisition cost for Kochi metro
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Kochi: New land acquisition rules could land Kochi Metro in a mess. One-fifth of the total expense for the project was allocated for land. Out of the entire project cost of Rs 5,181 crore for the stretch from Aluva to Petta, Rs 1,000 crore was spent on land acquisition.

However, after acquisition rates were revised upwards to Rs 1.7 crore for a cent, hundreds are coming forward with claims for more compensation. Going by the rate at which land prices are spiralling, even selling off metro coaches will not be sufficient to cover these compensations.

This will also hamper the first stage extension of the metro to Thrippunithura and the second stage to Kakkanad. Before the central rule came into existence, value for acquired land was fixed by Collector after due consideration of several factors. Those who had complaints could approach the court, which would set a price considering all factors involved. This changed after a more land-owner friendly law, Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) came into being.

An average of the three highest prices registered for adjacent land in the last three years, a 100 per cent solatium (compensation offered in consolation for emotianal pain and suffering) on market value and 12% interest from the time of notice of acquisition has to be paid now.

A small portion of land in MG Road was valued at Rs 21 lakh earlier. The amount of compensation coupled the solatium and 12% interest came to a final settlement of Rs 52 lakh. But the owner approached LARR authorities, who found a similar plot went for Rs 47 lakh. This takes the total amount payable by KMRL to Rs 1.7 crore. KMRL is set to challenge this in High Court. Though the land was acquired before LARR, the amount was sanctioned after it came into existence.

400 more cases

The new acquisition law came into effect in January 2014, the rules for which were introduced in Kerala only in September 2015. This has put many transactions between these dates in jeopardy. District-level purchase committees have to shell out the extra amount if those who settled for compensation during this period approach LARR. 230 cases for a higher price have been filed against the Metro already. Then there are the 170 others with whom a deal has been signed – a total of 400.

The rule is such that even those in Vytilla can seek compensation equal to those on MG Road. If one plot is allowed LARR amount, other ‘adjacent’ plots will deserve the same. Thus the total amount for land acquisition from Aluva to Petta will go from Rs 1,000 crore to 3,000 crore.

Stage two worries

The second stage to Kakkanad will be jeopardy if the current acquisition problem is not solved. The stretch from Kaloor stadium to Infopark is 11.2 kms. Road widening requires acquiring 8.55 acres of land. 362 families will be affected, 6 houses and 46 shops taken over. 254 shops will be partially affected. Total cost of the project is Rs 2310 crore, including land acquisition charges of Rs 135.72 crore. But if new LARR rules are applied, that will go up three to four times, hampering the whole project.

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