Sixty-one-year-old Jagadhamba is almost in tears. Property that her late husband Vishwanath built in 1994 is now being razed down, all for the sake of road widening by BBMP. Jagadhamba lives on Karkere Main Road in Jayanthi Nagar (North Bengaluru) with her family of two sons and two daughters. “What justice is this? This is our property. We don’t know what to do”, says Jagadhamba, as her voice drowns in the noise of the bull dozer at work.

Sixty-one-year-old Jagadhamba. 195 feet x 17 feet of her property, built in 1994, is being taken away for road widening. BBMP will issue a Development Rights Certificate to her. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

Her son Lakshmikanth V is more composed. A private developer, he explains that they were approached by BBMP to give up a part of our property for the widening of Karkere Main Road. The road that is currently 40 feet will be widened to 80 feet. Jagadhamba received a notice letter from BBMP on August 18th 2009 asking her to give up property of 195 feet in length and 17 feet in breadth, in return for which she can avail TDR or Transfer of Development Rights which is issued on what is known as Development Rights Certificate (DRC). Jagadhamba is also shouldering the burden of spending on the demolishing, so far shelling Rs 10,000 from her pocket.

As a part of BBMP’s drive to widen more than 85 roads in the city, the local body has been hoping to use TDR scheme to acquire land for the same. The BBMP issues a DRC to affected property owner, compensating for the loss of land (in square footage). Owners receive built-up area in addition to what they surrendered. The owner can use this to get extra square footage clearance while developing another property elsewhere in the city, or sell it in the market to developers and builders who can use it to exceed their allowed square footage.

What is TDR?

If your property is in the way of executing a large infrastructure project, the executing agency/the government, can acquire your property by compensating you with TDR. What is actually issued to you is a Development Rights Certificate specifying a built-up area that is 1.5 times what what you have originally surrendered. For e.g., if you gave up 600 sq.ft. built-up area to the BMP under the Roads Widening Scheme, then you will receive a certificate for 900 sq.ft. built-up area. Built-up area is also known as Floor Space Index (FSI) or Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The DRC is a certificate, and it is not land itself.

How do you use a DRC?

You can either use the DRC to exceed your allowed (i.e. sanctioned) built-up area on another plot of land/building that you may own in some other part of the city. Or, you can sell the DRC in the market. Many big developers and builders are keen to purchase the DRCs because it legally gives them more FAR. This means that they now have additional built-up area that they can factor into their building plans. Yes, the DRC allows the builder to "legally" add more floors to his/her building.

Zainab Bawa

For Karkere Main Road, a notice was issued in a city daily on July 29th 2009 along with a list of 20 roads notified for widening. Ramesh, a junior engineer with BBMP says this road was identified for widening since it connects many villages and is a major district road. Karkere Main Road leads to Devanahalli and Hoskote, among other places. “Work started around four to five months back. We have issued notices to 50 building owners and 250 vacant site owners for this. We are currently doing a survey for TDR”. Ramesh says work will be completed in another two months time.

Demolition ongoing at Jagadhamba's house on Karkere Main Road. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

On the same road is N L Chaudhary, owner of Manji Pawn Brokers. He lost about 17 feet of his property (shop on ground floor and house on first floor) to road widening. He rebuilt his shop about two months back which is now just 20 feet in length, as opposed to the earlier 37 feet. Ask him what compensation he has received for loss of property and he says, “They (BBMP) said they’ll give money for this. I don’t know when they will”. He wasn’t aware of DRC either.

Lakshmikanth, on the other hand, is aware of DRC, but doesn’t know when the BBMP will hand it over to him.

Manji Pawn shop. Owner N L Chaudhary says he lost about 17 feet of his property and is not aware of a Development Rights Certificate he is entitled to. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

This seems to be the basic problem with regard to BBMP’s plans to implement the TDR scheme. While for people like Chaudhary who has lost personal property, the very concept of TDR is alien, for Lakshmikanth, the question is when will BBMP hand over the DRC to him. Furthermore, realtors and developers, who are potential buyers of DRCs do not have a clue about where to purchase them.

Says Realtor Ajit Prakash, MD and CEO of Sana group, “Should there be an opportunity, we'll certainly use it (DRC). But I don't know who has TDR. If that information is available, as part of the  website, then I can check. It can be there area-wise with names and contact details”. He adds that it would also be difficult for individuals to sell it as they would not know who the interested people in the market are.

Suresh Hari of Vishal Promoters agrees. “It has to become more popular. A via-media solution needs to be found. TDR should be made attractive. I’m sure the government will look into it”, says Hari, who is also the Secretary of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI), Karnataka.

BBMP’s Chief Engineer (Major Roads) T N Chikkarayappa says they are working on this and shortly a system will be introduced, where property owners with a DRC can register in the BBMP zonal offices. Those who are interested in purchasing a DRC can also register in these offices, he adds. So far, there seems to be no plan to set up a system online, possibly through the BBMP website.

Prakash also asks if the DRC can be split and sold to two different buyers or used separately. Chikkarayappa says this can be done.

BBMP has dispatched over 6000 TDR forms to their zonal offices, to be sent to citizens whose land has to be acquired for roadwidening. Of these, about 100 citizens have sent back the forms to claim TDR, say official sources in the BBMP. The source also adds that the BBMP has issued 27 DRCs in turn, most of them on Race Course Road, out of which five or six have been sold.

For the uninitiated, here is how the TDR process is carried out. The BBMP’s Engineering department issues notices in newspapers. Once objections are reviewed and considered, red colour markings are made in the respective areas. Sources in the BBMP say that banners announcing the same are also displayed in the area. The Revenue department officials then inspect each property and collect information about the owner and their property. The TDR forms are then sent to the respective property owners/tenants. This form is to be submitted to BBMP zonal offices.

TDR – boon or bane?

Citizens across the city have protested against the TDR, questioning the need to widen certain roads, and a general worry over losing a part of their homes, Jagadhamba’s property being a case in question. Earlier this year Citizen Matters broke the story of how JP Nagar and BTM Layout residents came together in revolt against TDR-based roadwidening of the stretch from Silkboard to Mysore Road in south Bengaluru.

In some cases though, the BBMP seems to have worked a step ahead while acquiring land for road widening. Prakash explains the case of an apartment complex on Sarjapur Road, Purva Sunshine. After receiving a BDA sanction, BBMP then asked the builders to resubmit the plan as they were going to widen the road to 100 ft, says Prakash. “For the loss of land, they were allowed to go vertical. They got 2 floors more”.  In this case, Puravankara Projects Ltd was able to get the correction done at the sanction stages itself.

Hennur Main Road, where BBMP first marked 8 metres and then marked 11 m, confusing residents. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

On the other hand, a property owner on Hennur Main Road in East Bangalore hasn’t been so lucky. Says the contractor, Haroon Rasheed, “We got the BBMP plan sanction in 2007. That time they told us this road may be widened. So road widening department people came and inspected. They took 15 ft”. Rasheed adds that they did not receive any compensation for the same. “They are telling TDR TDR. Nobody has got it”. Incidentally, the BBMP has made markings on their wall, despite already having acquired property during plan sanction. “First they marked 8m. They scratched that and have now marked 11m. We don’t know what to do. Let them approach us”, he says.

The scheme may not affect apartment complexes as much especially those that have left adequate clearance between their walls and the road. When road expansion pushes back their compound wall, it usually eats into the setback area and not the structure itself.

It’s the individual houses that will get affected, as they will be forced to live closer to the road. Mahavir of Valmark Builders feels that it’s a problem for individual house owners. “For a person with a small house, it doesn’t help. Half the site is going, what about the other half. TDR alone will not help. If building cost is also given, then it is ok”.

With cases like Rasheed’s on Hennur Main Road where fresh markings have been made despite already acquiring land, it is no wonder that citizens question the very scheme of TDR. Inevitably comparisons to the scheme’s success in cities like Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad, immediately crop up.

M Chandra Shekhar, Chief Executive of Eco Pack (a industrial consulting firm) explains that TDR is more appreciated in Mumbai because the development there is different from that in Bangalore. “The business attitude is different there. The demand for apartments is more. There’s more vertical growth and the government attitude is also encouraging”, he explains, adding that in Bangalore, people prefer to live in independent homes rather than apartments.

In an interview with Citizen Matters, BBMP Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena claims that TDR is a viable scheme and adds, like others, that it has worked well in Mumbai and other places. Meena however admits that public awareness about TDR is an issue. “Some people are not aware about where to sell the TDR certificates in the market. We are also thinking about this, and making citizens aware. We are discussing this with builders. It needs to be made popular”, he says.  ⊕