Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Hindu article on the GIT SEZ Land Allocation !!

This is the article in "The Hindu";

Andhra Pradesh - Hyderabad

Turning varsity into a multi-services special economic zone !
K. Venkateshwarlu

Centre, State transform project into SEZ
YSR overrules panel’s suggestion on price of land


HYDERABAD: Chinks have been detected in the allotment of 250 acres of land to the US-based Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) at Mucherla in Ranga Reddy district and its conversion from an university to a multi-services Special Economic Zone (SEZ) having malls and star hotels.

The GIT had actually sought 50 acres of land near Hyderabad Central University for locating its “not for profit” university but the Central and State Government, through a series of eyebrow-raising decisions, transformed it into a SEZ project, allotted 250 acres valued at Rs. 18 lakh per acre (or Rs. 45 crore) in the market at Rs. 1.5 lakh an acre.

Education as an excuse
Notwithstanding the controversies dogging SEZs, this “unique temple of learning in SEZ” project was cleared in the name of promoting higher education, research and industry, according to copies of the documents and file notings obtained by an enterprising software engineer, D. Rakesh Kumar Reddy, using the Right To Information Act.

“When I pored through the 289-page file some of them marked ‘strictly confidential’ which I obtained on May 14, I was shocked by the way both the Governments encouraged the university to scale up its requirement and seek SEZ status. Considering that for a high-tech university even 50 acres is huge, I have doubts over the use of the remaining 200 acres and if real estate lobby is behind it,” said Mr. Reddy.

Twists and turns

The twists and turns taken by a simple university project began on April 7, 2007 when the GIT or Georgia Tech India made a formal application. On May 21, 2007, Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy munificently decided that the university could be given 20-25 acres in Hyderabad and 70 acres in Visakhapatnam and an MoU signed on June 5. “The GIT must have been surprised with the offer, as it never sought any land in Visakhapatnam,” says Mr. Reddy. Three months later the project took another turn. Gary B. Schuster of the GIT wrote to the Chief Minister seeking 250 acres “following the advice given by the officials of the PMO and the Commerce Ministry on housing the university within multi-services SEZ…”

As a follow- up, Robert K. Thompson of GIT wrote another letter to the Chief Minister to allot the land, to “enable GIT to establish multi-services education, research and technology programme that could be integrated with a technology park.

This will be Vigyan City.” Mr. Thompson attached a report prepared by Ernst and Young for GIT to support his letter. When it came to fixing of price, the Chief Minister overruled the empowered committee’s suggestion of offering land at the prevailing market rate of Rs.18 lakhs an acre. Instead, he reduced it to Rs. 1.5 lakh per acre unusually citing the case of BITS near Shamirpet.

“From a university campus it became a giant commercial multi-services SEZ only to get land and tax incentives. If the allotment was confined to 50 acres at nominal rate, the MoU would not have raised doubts ,” says Mr. Reddy.

No comments: