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