Maharashtra govt orders Lavasa to return 191 acres of land to tribals


    Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has ordered Ajit Gulabchand-led Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd’s (HCC) real estate development unit Lavasa Corp. to return 191 acres to local tribals.

    A person close to the development said Subhash Borkar, a sub-divisional officer (SDO) in the state revenue department, has directed Lavasa to return the land that was notified for tribals but given to the company.

    The action followed a compliant by activist group National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM).

    Marathi newspaper Loksatta reported this first on Wednesday.

    Lavasa is developing a private hill city over 23,000 acres near Pune. The first phase will cover 18,000 acres.

    While Gulabchand, managing director of HCC, did not reply to calls and text messages, Lavasa said Tuesday’s announcement by the SDO was the first such declaration.

    “The land records at no time showed these lands as tribal lands nor did the records contain the mandatory remark to indicate that these were tribal lands under section 36(a) of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966. Lavasa Corp. has not bought these lands directly from the allottees. These lands were sold by the allottees 15 to 20 years ago. And they have changed hands two or three times before Lavasa Corp. bought these lands from the latest owner on record,” Lavasa said in a statement.

    Besides, the company said the order would affect only 23.75 hectares (around 57 acres) of Lavasa’s land, though the government order clearly mentions 191 acres.

    In Maharashtra, tribal land carries a specific remark under section 36A of the Maharashtra Land Revenue (MLR) Code.

    “In all such cases, permission is required from the government. Had the tribal status of the land been known from the remark, Lavasa would have bought the land with proper permission from the government. No such remarks were there on the record of these lands,” the company said.

    Lavasa noted that Regulation 17 of the Special Regulation for Hill Stations, 1996, specifically states that “the revenue department shall grant permission to the owner/developer of such project to purchase the tribal land in the project area as per the provisions of section 36A of the MLR Code.

    “In any case, being unbuildable hilly areas, these lands are neither under development nor earmarked for any future development in Lavasa’s planning proposal/development plan. Loss of these lands is, therefore, not going to affect Lavasa’s immediate or future development. All this has happened because there is no title guarantee given by the state for land that anyone buys despite being the official keeper of land records,” the statement said.

    On 31 July, Mint reported that HCC may delay a sale of shares in its subsidiary Lavasa Corp. because of a lack of investor appetite for real estate companies.

    The company was advised by its book running lead managers to wait till the market improves even though it has in place approvals from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to raise Rs.750 crore through the initial public offering (IPO), the report said, citing HCC group chief executive Praveen Sood.

    The company had earlier said it would likely launch the IPO during the July-September quarter of this fiscal year. Sood did not specify when the share sale would take place.

    HCC first decided to raise Rs.2,000 crore by launching Lavasa’s IPO in November 2010—a plan that was later shelved. In July 2014, Lavasa filed its draft red herring prospectus with Sebi to raise Rs.750 crore. It received Sebi approval in November 2014. Axis Capital Ltd is the lead manager for the IPO.

    On Wednesday, HCC shares declined 1.52% to close at Rs.22.75 apiece on BSE, even as the benchmark Sensex rose 0.38% to close at 27,035.85 points.