The Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB) has decided to use over 40 school plots — worth more than Rs. 100 crore — for commercial and residential complexes.
TNHB, which was set up in 1961, earmarks plots for constructing schools in their housing layouts, as a part of the community amenities and has claimed that there were no buyers for these plots. However, an RTI enquiry by this correspondent revealed that many of these plots had not even been put up for sale by TNHB during the re-auctioning.
These properties, costing as high as Rs. 34 crore, have remained unsold for years. TNHB claims that the plots had not been purchased both during both the initial auction and a subsequent re-auctioning. However, educationists feel that the TNHB had priced the plots beyond the reach of many institutions.
The TNHB fixes a base price for each of these plots depending on their location, and auctions them.
For instance, a 10,000 sq. ft primary school property in Velachery is priced at Rs.4.67 crore and a high school plot in Sholingnallur phase III is priced at Rs. 34 crore (1.3 lakh square feet). Similarly, a 30,000-sq ft high school plot in Nolambur phase III is priced at Rs 19.43 crore.
On January 30, the TNHB resolved to use the unsold school plots for residential and other purposes, to recover the cost and reduce the loss. To implement this resolution, the board has offered guidelines to review the plots in terms of size, location with reference to nearby schools, accessibility, and other parameters.
After the review, the TNHB would decide the details of conversion. The Board would discuss the option of selling the remaining plots, if any, for a discounted price in the next meeting.
The RTI enquiry filed in October has elicited only partial reply till date. Only two divisions of the TNHB have provided details of the unsold school plots so far. The response revealed that not all school plots were re-auctioned.
For instance, on August 2012, the TNHB advertised only three of the seven unsold plots in Besant Nagar division. Similarly, in Anna Nagar division, it advertised only two of the 33 unsold properties.
When contacted, the TNHB officials said that they deal with thousands of RTI applications and cannot reply in the stipulated time. A very senior official said that all details were available in the minutes of January 30 meeting that were uploaded on the website.
Educationists pointed to challenges faced by private schools, known to play a major part in providing education, while purchasing land. The TNHB should provide land at subsidised rates, they observed.
S. Bhavani Shankar, senior principal, Omega International School, said: “At a time when government is striving to bring education for all, the TNHB should realise that we need to build more schools. It should call for a consultative meeting of the education department, schools heads and other stake holders to discuss the issue,” he said.