The railways has finally put one of the biggest land parcels it owns in the city — a 43,000 square metre plot at a stone's throw away from Bandra station's eastern fringe — on the block to raise money for the a plethora of railway projects.
The Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA) has put the plot for a long lease of 45 years and the winning bid will be declared on June 3, said officials. According to the railways, some of the criteria for the bidders have been framed in such a way that they weed out the non-serious and the fly-by-night real estate operators. One of the criteria is that the participating firms must have built at least one residential or commercial property with an area of 31,900 square metres in the past 10 years and also have built townships or commercial complexes in the past 10 years totaling 1,60,000 square metres.
"Moreover, the average gross revenue of the participating firms should be at least Rs1,220 crore in the past three years. These will ensure only the high-end real estate companies come in. After all, the plot is located in such a prime location in Bandra — close to the station and the Western Express Highway — that we are expecting some very good bids," said a railway official. As per the rules governing the commercial exploitation of such railway land, one-third of the money that comes in will be spent on railway projects in Mumbai, one-third on railway projects in Maharashtra excluding Mumbai and the rest on railway projects elsewhere in India.
In November last year, WR applied for a property card for the land. The plot estimated to cost anything between Rs4,000 and Rs5,000 crore is crucial for the finance of the Mumbai Urban Transport Project's (MUTP) phase two works and not being able to commercially exploit it would seriously jeopardise the progress of these works. The state owes around Rs250 crore to the railways as payment for work completed under MUTP phase two and the matter is already the subject of a string of letters being written by the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation — the executing authority for the railway-related works under MUTP.
The plot of land has been possibly the most vexed and long-running land dispute between the state and the Central government — represented by Western Railway in this case — with the fight going back almost a decade. It started way back in September 2008 when the RLDA moved to auction the plot to garner revenue. The matter soon landed in court after the state claimed that the land belonged to it rather than the railways. The matter played out at the Suburban Collector's office as well the office of the Divisional Commissioner of Konkan before the state revenue minister gave his order on December 2012 adjudicating that the plot belonged to the railways.