Three prime Parsi baugs told to cough up over Rs 35 crore for lease renewals

The city collector has issued demand notices to the city’s largest private landlord, Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP), for various properties, including prominent residential baugs built by industrialist Nusli Wadia’s family in the last century.

71018625Land leases of three landmark Parsi enclaves- Rustom Baug and Jer Baug at Byculla, and Ness Baug at Nana Chowk-that came up in the early part of the 20th century have expired. To renew the leases, which expired seven years ago, collector Shivaji Jondhale has raised a demand in excess of Rs 35 crore.
These properties contain around 500 apartments for lower and middle-income Parsis. The BPP, which controls 5,500 flats in Mumbai, has challenged the notices.

The collector has slapped a lease rent of Rs 23 crore for Rustom Baug, Rs 11 crore for Jer Baug and over Rs 1 crore for Ness Baug. The major chunk comprises penalties for delaying renewal of leases. Some of these leases, for 99 years, were signed in 1917.

According to the state government’s lease renewal policy, new rents have been fixed for collector’s land. These leases are renewed for 30 years by taking 25% of the total land valuation.

The panchayat has challenged the demand, saying these are charity properties where tenants pay a few hundreds as monthly rent. “We are a charitable institution and these flats are meant for community housing. We have requested the collector to rework the lease rent,” said BPP trustee Kersi Randeria. Some of the trustees recently made a representation to the collector.

The BPP trustees have shot down any suggestion of redeveloping the baugs, it is learnt.

“Evicting anyone whose lease has come to an end and not renewed for want of a government policy for renewal by treating that person as a rank trespasser is completely illegal,” the BPP wrote to the collector on August 2. The panchayat said the lease for Rustom Baug had expired in 2012 and within a month it had applied for renewal. “Application for renewal was made even when the policy of the state government was not finalised,” it said.

The BPP said the land was leased to a charitable organisation to house people from low to middle income category at very nominal rents. In fact, rents collected by the trust are not even enough to pay the lease rentals charged by the government, property tax and minimum maintenance of the property. Trustees cannot exploit the commercial potential of the property for it is being used for social, cultural and religious purposes,” said the BPP.

The Punchayat further said the “arbitrary and unreasonable increase” in the ready reckoner rates applicable for trust properties has been challenged and not been adjudicated till date.

Over a century ago, Nusli Wadia’s great-grandmother Jerbai Wadia built the first of the Parsi baugs for middle-income and weaker sections of her community. Between 1908 and 1956, five baugs were built on over 35 acres housing 1,500 flats in 646 buildings for lower- and middle-class Parsis. These include Cusrow Baug (14 acres) at Colaba, Rustom Baug (9.5 acres) at Byculla, Ness Baug (2.7 acres) at Nana Chowk, Jerbai Baug (2.7 acres) at Byculla and Nowroz Baug (5.5 acres).

Published on Times of India