Cong-owned AJL constructing more than allowed on Mumbai land: Panel

A committee appointed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to probe alleged misuse of land allotted to Associated Journals Limited has said that the newspaper company is undertaking construction work in excess of what it was allowed.

The Gautam Chatterjee committee submitted its 20-page report to the principal secretary of the revenue department Manukumar Srivastava.

Congress, which owns AJL and the now-defunct National Herald newspaper, was constructing a commercial building on a plot of 3,479 sq m in suburban Bandra, off the western Express Highway, instead of building a research centre dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru for which it had been allotted the plot.

While AJL had said it would require 11,000 sq ft construction in basement and 9,000 sq ft on top of the building, it is in reality constructing on over 83,000 sq ft, a majority of which is for commercial usage, the report states.

This is in contravention of a government resolution that states one can use no more than 15 per cent of the area for commercialisation to cross-subsidise the project, an RTI activist said.

Mumbai BJP secretary Vivekananda Gupta alleged that there was a violation of Maharashtra Land Revenue Code in the allotment and the use of the land given to AJL.

He termed the ongoing construction on the Bandra plot as mostly commercial in nature and illegal.

He demanded that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) should immediately issue stop-work notice, and the government should take the land back.

Gupta also demanded that all the recreational grounds and open spaces allotted under the 2007 caretaker policy of the BMC should also be taken back where clubs have been constructed by trusts controlled by politicians.

"Open spaces belong to the public at large. But there is restricted entry to the public and unrestricted entry to those who have paid exorbitant fees as membership," he said.

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