West Bengal to raise Rs 3,000 cr from 'idle' govt land
The cash-strapped West Bengal government plans to unlock idle land in prime locations, owned by various state-run transport agencies, to raise needed revenue.
The state Cabinet has approved a proposal in this regard to sell or lease land in the city and neighbouring areas, lying idle with four state-owned transport agencies - Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC), Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC), South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) and West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC).
If all goes well, the state government could be able to raise as much as Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 30 billion), sources said. The four transport bodies have already filed details on their land holding. The transport companies jointly own 139 acres in the city and adjacent areas, of which about 60 per cent is idle, said a top official in the state transport department.
According to sources, although the valuation is yet to be done, the state transport department has informed the state Cabinet that Rs 3,000 crore could be raised.
"Apart from 18-20 acres in Neelgunj depot in North 24 Paraganas, the idle land mostly is in the city's prime locations. For example, CTC has about two acres of surplus land in Gariahat, which alone can earn Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion). So, the government can hope to raise over Rs 3,000 crore by offloading about 80 acres of land with an average price of Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) per acre," said the transport department official. The land is being identified in 33 locations across the city and neighboring areas, he added.
Of the four transport agencies, CSTC has the largest chunk of about 89 acres, followed by CTC which owns 33 acres. SBSTC and WBSTC, on the other hand, have nine and eight acres, respectively. "The entire eight acre of WBSTC is in the Salt Lake area, where the market price is over Rs 60 crore per acre," the official pointed out.
West Bengal transport minister Madan Mitra, however, refused to share details of the plan. "The government is providing a subsidy of Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion) annually to all the transport corporations. This cannot go on. There is a proposal to revive the transport sector, including commercial utilisation of surplus land. However, before that, we are working on merger of CSTC, CTC and WBSTC."
The transport department has proposed a merger of the three companies, which the government argues, would bring down the operational costs.
The process for merger has already been being initiated, as a part of which, employees in the three transport companies will be offered the voluntary retirement scheme.