CAG finds flaws in planning, land allotment in Noida in 2005-2018

New Okhla Industrial Development Authority or Noida, which was established in 1976 with a mandate to develop an industrial development zone, due to its proximity to the national capital with prime plots for industrial, commercial, various governments of Uttar Pradesh has been focused. As well as for residential and institutional purposes.

However, the first CAG audit of land acquisition and its allotment by the Authority between 2005-06 and 2017-18 has found serious flaws in planning, land acquisition, arbitrary pricing and allotment.

The audit, which was ordered in 2017, found that from the development of the sports city to the allotment of farmhouse plots and group housing societies, the authority deviated from its authority.

The focus of the Authority has been on residential, commercial and group housing rather than allotting land for industrial purposes. Notably, the audit found that as of March 2020, land allotment for industrial purposes got the lowest priority, with only 23 per cent of the land allotted for the same, while 52 per cent was allotted for residential purposes.

Also, the CAG audit found that highest land allotment in terms of area – excluding residential allotment – was done in the financial year 2010-11. In that year alone, 48.61 lakh sqm area was allocated – almost a quarter (25.81%) of the 188 lakh sqm area that was allocated during the entire audit period i.e. from 2005-2006 to 2017-2018.

The CAG in its report said that as per the Master Plan-2031, Noida had planned to develop an area of ​​1,527.99 lakh sqm against which it had acquired 1,237.58 lakh sqm of land till March 2020. However, between 2005-06 and 2017-18, the authority allotted only 2,761 properties covering 188.34 lakh sqm under various categories, excluding residential allotments.

Out of 188.34 lakh sqm, 81.62 per cent land is group housing (71.03 lakh sqm or 37.72%), commercial purposes (16.84 lakh sqm or 8.94%), sports city (32.14 lakh sqm or 17%), institutional (15.33 lakh sqm or 8.14%) , and farmhouse (18.37 lakh sqm or 9.75%).

The report noted that the allocation of the industrial area, whose development was Noida’s primary objective, accounted for only 18.38 per cent (34.62 lakh sqm) of the land allocation.

Moreover, most of the land allocation for group housing was done between 2005-06 and 2010-11 – about 98 per cent in area terms, with almost half the allocations made in 2009-2010 alone, the CAG audit report found.

The audit report said that the specific definitions for the respective land use categories as given in the Planning Regulations, 1991 were replaced with “very general definitions and clauses” in the Planning Regulations, 2010. It observed that the requirement of detailed specification for land use was done away with and Noida was empowered to make changes in the master plan as it deems fit.

“These amendments empowered Noida to amend the character of the master plan, provide greater discretion and reduce the requirements for detailed disclosure in the master plan. As a result, land use conversions were regularized by undertaking various activities – eg. sports city and mixed land use. Schemes not related to the original purpose of Noida were launched, and various activities not permitted in agricultural use, institutional use and industrial use were allowed, causing damage to Noida,” the audit stated in.

It was observed that the dilution done in the 2010 Regulations resulted in commercial activities in the industrial and recreational categories in Noida leading to allocation at lower rates and consequent loss to the Authority.

The audit report stated that the sports city plan was initiated “without due approval”, and priority was given to housing, villas, etc., rather than development of sports infrastructure.