Thirty years after it bought a four-acre plot of land in Connaught Place, in the heart of Delhi, Air India is locked in a conflict with the urban development ministry. The national carrier wants to sell or lease the land, estimated to be worth about Rs 1,000 crore, but the urban development ministry has barred it from doing so.
Moreover, a part of the land cannot be used because the airport line Metro station has been built under it.
In 1983, Air India bought the plot of land on Baba Kharak Singh Marg from the urban development ministry for Rs 15 crore. The initial plan was to build a city office. But it was only in 1999, that Air India got “technical possession” of the land. And it took another 10 years for it to get full possession, after all encroachments were removed.
“Air India had paid for four acres but when the land was measured in 2013, it was found to be only 3.54 acres,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official.
The airline then wanted to sell or lease the land as part of its plans to raise Rs 5,000 crore through sale or lease of its assets over a period of 10 years. The Connaught Place plot was to be included in the first phase of its sale of assets, under the financial restructuring plan approved by the cabinet.
But the urban development ministry has barred the airline from selling or leasing the land in its draft of the land transfer deed.
“We have told the urban development ministry that there is no reason for barring us from selling the land as we have cabinet approval for it. Moreover, the original agreement also allows us to sell or lease the land,” said a senior Air India official who did not want to be identified.
The official added that the urban development ministry was scheduled to repay Air India a part of the Rs 15 crore on pro rata basis. “In 2008, we were asked to give 1,500 sq metres to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for construction of an underground station. Now we cannot use a part of the area below ground level as the metro station lies below it,” he explained.
Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Krishna was not available for comment.