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Posts Tagged ‘CPI-M’

Paint the town green

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The people have spoken. Congratulations Mamata Banerjee and her motley crew of the (All India) Trinamool Congress. The Left Front was in power for 34 years, more than a generation, always with an overwhelming majority.

Many feel disconcerted that the AITC, and in particular Mamata Banerjee, does not have a discernible political philosophy. I would say that in this election the people have rejected political philosophy as a basis for governance. But it is not difficult to argue that even the Indian National Congress has no political philosophy. Only the Left, and the ultra-right BJP, swear by political philosophies. And in general they keep getting rejected by the Indian public.

One might say that the rejection of political philosophy as a basis for governance is in fact an international phenomenon, seen both in the failure of fascist or right-wing dictatorships as well as of communist dictatorships to survive a proper election.

Unreal Estate

December 5, 2009 Leave a comment

To anyone looking for a flat in Calcutta and surroundings it must seem that real estate prices in the city have gone through the roof over the last couple of years. Residex, the new real estate index confirms this. Rs. 100 invested in real estate in 2007 would have been Rs. 159 at the end of June, 2009, a bigger growth than in any other Indian city. In comparison, real estate worth Rs. 100 in 2007 would have been worth Rs. 58 in Bangalore, Rs. 71 in Jaipur, and Rs. 65 in Hyderabad.

The area-wise growth in real estate prices in is also quite instructive. Places like Alipur and Bhawanipur are always considered expensive to live in, and price increases there have stayed ahead of the average. On the other hand, far-flung places like Thakurpukur or Sonarpur show more than a 70% increase in prices, while the very thickly populated, almost slummy area of Jadavpur has seen a near doubling of prices in that year and a half. Not to mention the astounding trebling of real estate prices in Barrackpore, which isĀ  a suburb of Calcutta more in principle than in practice.

So what is the explanation behind this extreme growth in real estate prices? Several big players entered the Calcutta real estate market around the year 2000, and they have been pushing the prices up all along. Not all the flats built by these builders get sold immediately. Half or more of the flats remain empty to begin with and are sold over time, either directly by the builders themselves or by real estate investors. I have met some of these `investors’, and thought they were proxies of the same builders or banks, helping to drive up real estate prices.

In any case, this helped keep prices high for branded real estate. But now small builders and their agents have started to raise prices to very high levels, about 60-70% of the prices demanded by the top builders. I doubt if they are selling all their flats either. So how are these prices sustained? My guess is the following. The big builders got in because the CPI-M acquired land through less than legal means and gave it away at rockbottom prices. Or because the government allowed various laws, including environmental ones, to be circumvented by the builders. Or allowed industrial land to be converted into residential land. All in return of fat bribes, one presumes. But in any case, the initial investments for the builders at that time were substantially less than what is normal for any city of this size. So the builders could take time to sell the flats and still make a profit. That was for the big builders. But more recently, small builders have started charging exorbitant rates. It is not clear if small builders can afford to leave unsold flats lying around, but medium sized builders certainly can. That suggests that they are probably getting similar `facilities’ as the big builders. Not only the CPI-M, which is trying to make as much cash as possible before it is inevitably ousted from power in another year or so, but also the TMC, some of whose area bosses are notorious for their corruption, are helping the landsharks.

And there is another reason for the price hike. Many flats are bought by people who do not intend to live there. Such buyers also include corporate houses and banks. Even in buildings as old as 30 years, about 10% of the flats are unoccupied, owned by corporate entities and banks. And in many cases, flats are a way to park unreported cash. With various economic bubbles bursting of late, banks and corporate houses can be expected to wake up to the fact that they have very large non-performing assets in the form of unoccupied flats. And if the government follows its own rules and demands a tax return of everyone who has a flat in the city, it will find a lot of hidden treasures. And then the real estate bubble of Calcutta will burst again, like in many other cities across the country.

Rats on a sinking ship

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Story here and here.

Categories: Calcutta, Politics Tags: ,

Escalation of violence

July 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Wednesday saw a new level of violence in the politics of West Bengal, when nine Congress MLAs visiting Mangalkot were chased across paddy fields, stoned and beaten up, while their `police protection’ stood by and watched. The chief secretary of the state, perhaps in a poor attempt to emulate Marie Antoinette, asked why the MLAs always had to visit troubled areas like Mangalokot, Khejuri and Darjeeling.

Then on Thursday, Congress supporters took to the streets, torched buses, blocked roads and rail stations, made commuters walk home. Now congress has called a strike in the state.

The question of who started it is irrelevant. It is easy to blame the CPI(M) for letting law and order degenerate to the levels that MLAs can get beaten up. But if Congress takes the route of violence so easily, should they expect people to vote for them in the next election? Are they better than the CPI(M)? Or do they plan to project themselves as the lesser of the two evils? I am afraid the TMC will walk away with the election in that case, because many people have long memories of an evil congress.

Categories: Calcutta, Politics Tags: ,

The end of CPI(M)?

July 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Front pages carried the news today that V.S. Achuthanandan has been sacked from the politburo of CPI(M) — the party he helped found — without a vote. His fault was to have supported a CBI inquiry into the allegations of corruption against Pinarayi Vijayan. So CPI(M), which increasingly appears to be run solely by Prakash Karat, decided to punish a sitting Chief Minister for saying that the Law must take its course.

In a strange coincidence, Jyoti Basu passed out and almost passed away. Also on the front pages.

Categories: Politics Tags: ,