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Fear grips Ahmedabad residents: Nominal metro rail displacement compensation offered to "occupants"

By Our Representative
A fresh fear has engulfed thousands of residents of Ahmedabad: The high-profile metro rail project, which was taken up a decade after it was supposed to have been launched, will not only displace them. They may not get compensation under the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013, as "promised" by the Gujarat government's special purpose vehicle (SPV) to implement the project.
The reason, said a letter addressed to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, is that a large number of those to be displaced, especially in the eastern part of the city, do not have valid documents of house ownership, but have been living on there without any hassles.
Written by Jatin Sheth, a senior human rights activist and convener, Nagrik Sashaktikaran Manch, the letter says, the state government's project developer, MEGA (Metro-link Express for Gandhinagar & Ahmedabad), proposes to give compensation under standards worked out by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), in which the "occupants" can receive less than the government calculated norm of value of land or real estate property, called jantri in Gujarat.
The jantri rate is known to be several times less than the existing market rate, and revised after a gap of several years. Based on the rate, stamp duty is supposed to be paid for any real estate deal.
According to Sheth's letter, the problem has arisen because, for decades, these people are staying as "occupants", and not as "owners" -- they had bought the property on a stamp paper of as low as Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 or Rs 100, Sheth says.
If the LAA, 2013 were to be applied, by equating these occupants with owners, they would have been entitled to get compensation which would be at least four times that of the prevailing market value of the real estate property, the letter suggests.
Most of them belonging to middle or lower middle class families, the "occupants" norm is proposed to be applied on land, house, shop or factory unit they own, Sheth says, insisting, "All of them should be given compensation under the LAA, 2013, as declared by MEGA."
Sheth further says, all those who are occupants of a real estate based on stamp paper, which used to be the case decades ago, should be declared as "occupants" so that they do not face any problem in future.
"What is most unfortunate is that, these occupants were not even allowed the offer of impact fee charged to legalize housing constructions", the letter says, adding, "Even their plea during the social impact assessment for the metro project was not heeded."
Pointing out that families living in the region -- Amraiwadi, Vastal, and Rabari Colony -- are having "sleepless nights", the letter wants the chief minister's intervention, saying, "Hope you can understand the plight of women and girls in this situation. They feel they would be pushed to the roads."

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