State govt opens up farm land for hous­ing poor un­der PM’s scheme

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Abhijit.Atre@ times­

In a first, the state gov­ern­ment has thrown open farm land across mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils and cor­po­ra­tions for res­i­den­tial con­struc­tions, to pro­mote af­ford­able hous­ing for eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions (EWS) un­der the Prime Min­is­ter Awas Yo­jana (PMYA).

It will al­low farm land own­ers to do away with the need to get clear­ances for non-agri­cul­tural (NA) use of land, pro­vided the con­struc­tion is for EWS hous­ing, with the max­i­mum FSI be­ing one.

How­ever, ur­ban plan­ners and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have raised con­cerns about the move, which they said will pave the way for “con­cret­ing of the no-de­vel­op­ment zone”. Be­sides en­dan­ger­ing food se­cu­rity in the long run, they said it will put enor­mous pres­sure on in­fra­struc­ture, civic services and the en­vi­ron­ment. They said re­gional plans of dis­tricts will be ren­dered use­less as it does not pro­vide for roads and other services on farm land, thus lead­ing to hap­haz­ard de­vel­op­ment.

Of­fi­cials of the state hous­ing de­part­ment, which is­sued a gov­ern­ment res­o­lu­tion (GR) on Thurs­day, said it will make avail­able vast tracks of land to pro­mote af­ford­able hous­ing in Ma­ha­rash­tra. “If suc­cess­ful, in the long run it will help keep over­all realty prices un­der con­trol as sup­ply will be more than de­mand fol­low­ing avail­abil­ity of land,” an of­fi­cial told TOI.

Al­low­ing hous­ing schemes on farm land is a small part of the GR, which spells out rules and reg­u­la­tions for six schemes to pro­mote af­ford­able hous­ing un­der PMYA, in­clud­ing 2.5 FSI for such schemes on ex­ist­ing res­i­den­tial land, ei­ther owned by the gov­ern­ment or pri­vate par­ties, the of­fi­cial said.

He pointed out that they have listed re­stric­tions to pre­vent abuse by fly-by-night op­er­a­tors. “The FSI limit will be one. As the flats are for EWS, ten­e­ment size will be re­stricted. We have in­tro­duced a marks-based sys­tem to ver­ify if con­struc­tion can be per­mit­ted con­sid­er­ing the lo­ca­tion of the farm plot from ex­ist­ing roads and other services. We will not al­low de­vel­op­ers to ex­ploit farm land with­out ver­i­fy­ing in­fra­struc­ture needs,” he said.

An­other of­fi­cial ar­gued that even un­der cur­rent rules, res­i­den­tial con­struc­tions were al­lowed on farm land within 1,500 me­tres of gaothan ar­eas, where NA per­mis­sion is sought, and also in town­ships mea­sur­ing 100 acres or more. Also, present rules al­low the use of farm land for non-res­i­den­tial pur­poses, such as build­ing schools and in­dus­tries, he said, po- int­ing out that farm land had been en­croached and had to be reg­u­larised.

Ur­ban plan­ner Aneeta Gokhale-Ben­ninger told TOI, “Of­fi­cials are look­ing at the is­sue from a hous­ing per­spec­tive. Farm land mit­i­gates car­bon foot­prints and helps re­duce pol­lu­tion. They are cre­at­ing heat is­lands through such po­lices. Our food se­cu­rity is stressed and threat­ened. It will fur­ther dip if con­struc­tion is al­lowed on farm land,” she said.

On the claim by of­fi­cials that it will do away with the need to seek NA, and thus save de­vel­op­ers time and money, a step to­wards ease of busi­ness, she said, “Why you plan to do away with NA per­mis­sion? Im­prove the pro­ce­dure to grant NA. Cut red-tape. Do­ing away with per­mis­sion is wrong.”

An ex­pert said, “If such per­mis­sion is granted, houses will come first and then ser­vice lines and roads. This has hap­pened and we know it re­sults in hap­haz­ard de­vel­op­ment.”

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