news Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 05:30
Haritha John | The News Minute | March 24, 2015 | 6.50 pm IST On Tuesday afternoon, the Kochi Metro Rail Facebook page put out a small status- “The district administration has initiated action to acquire the land belonging to Seematti. The acquisition is being done by compensating Seematti for almost Rs 17 crores.” At first look, this looks like a simple update by KMRL on land acquisition for the Kochi Metro project. But it is not so, and the government’s decision to acquire land from the textile showroom giant comes after a huge campaign lead primarily by social media users and alternate media portals in Kerala. At the heart of the controversy is a 32 cent land at MG Road which KMRL had to acquire at a price of Rs 18 crore by some estimates. For months now, Seematti has been trying to strike a deal with the government and have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed as per which KMRL could use the land without paying any compensation to Seematti, in return for some favours. Some reports suggested that KMRL may pay price of the of the 2.7 cents of land required for constructing the viaducts of the Metro. But the portions of the MoU that were reported received widespread criticism as it was heavily tilted in Seematti’s favour. As per the MoU, Seematti would use the space under the viaducts for parking, and KMRL would allow them to use advertisement spaces on the metro at a nominal price or for free. This the district administration claimed would save the government Rs 16 crores. Seematti however was reportedly not happy with the MoU. “These are not the only two clauses, there are many more and Seematti has come up with more demands. Seematti’s land acquisition is delayed over some issues in the MoU,” an officer at KMRL had told TNM on Monday. Soon many questioned the government and KMRL’s tilt in favour of Seematti and why the showroom should be treated differently in comparison to many people who had been displaced by the land acquisition. Seematti’s additional demands also put the KMRL in a tough spot. The voices questioning the government grew louder when March 20, the deadline set by the District collector to acquire land passed. There were media reports that Seematti had approached Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy asking for more time. “MoU was a good option, and the government would have made a profit of Rs. 17 crore, but Seematti’s demands were not acceptable to KMRL. So to stop further delay we bought the land. The land not lease or rent. Now KMRL owns the land," P Shobhana, Deputy Collector (Metro Rail) told TNM. She added that a cent of land in Kochi’s MG Road costs Rs 52 lakhs. Shobana also blamed the media for fabricating stories and creating a controversy. It was not just the online campaign, Kochi Town Planning Chairman too had criticized the earlier move for an MoU. “They will give land free of cost, and the firm will have 10 times more benefit, through advertisements or some facilities. It is all about business, that the common man won’t understand and they won’t benefit too. I am sure that even Metro won’t benefit,” K.J Sohan Town Planning Committee Chairman had said earlier.But now with the KMRL deciding to acquire land from Seemattti, it looks like the controversy has come to an end, at least for now. Photos Courtesy : Facebook page KMRL Tweet

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