Land allotted to netas' kin at throwaway rates: CAG report

The CAG is in the groove again. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis yesterday created a sensation in the state assembly by revealing contents of a report prepared by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India. The report is about land allocation to trusts and housing societies floated by the near and dear ones of prominent politicians from the state.

Fadnavis alleged the government is deliberately putting off tabling the report in the State Legislature to avoid embarrassment. Demanding an early tabling, he handed over a CD containing details of the report to Assembly Speaker.

Believe it! BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis alleged that the government is deliberately putting off tabling of CAG report in the State Legislature to avoid embarrassment. Demanding an early tabling, he handed over a CD containing details of the report to Assembly Speaker. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

Under CAG radar
The report says that prime land allotments were made at extraordinarily concessionary rates to several trusts, including Mumbai Education Trust, which has a campus in Bandra (W). The trust, allegedly patronaged by PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, was allotted 41,300 sq m of land near Nashik for Rs 1.55 lakh in 2003 Nashik MP Sameer Bhujbal, who is a nephew of Chhagan Bhujbal, asked for 91,300 sq m of land which was in possession of the PWD in Nashik. According to the CAG, plot admeasuring 50,000 sq m was allotted for an engineering college, despite objections raised by the finance department. The land was given at Rs 9.08 lakh when its market price was Rs 9.39 crore.

The Sindhudurg Education Trust, allegedly run by people close to Industries Minister Narayan Rane, was leased a plot of 1,719 sq m in Andheri for Rs 10,712 as rent per annum. The actual price of the land, according to the report, was
Rs 6.68 crore.

Reacting to the allegations, Rane told media persons that the allotment was based on the government policy formulated by the departments concerned from time to time, and challenged anyone to prove that he has a link with the trust.

In another case, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Pune of which Forest Minister Dr Patangrao Kadam is chancellor, got 19,200 sq m of land at Lohgaon near Pune. The plot whose market price was Rs 4.80 crore was allotted at a concessional rate, but it has remained unutilised. Despite a call by the Pune collector for repossessing the land, the state has not acted on it.
A land allotment by then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh to a trust under his patronage, Manjra Charitable Trust, has come under the CAG scanner. Despite the fact that the plot located in Borivli was demanded by four applicants, it was allotted to the trust. The land costing Rs 30 crore at the market price was allotted for Rs 6 crore. Even after six years of its allotment, the trust has not utilised it, says the CAG findings. The agreement between the government and the trust is missing the important mandatory clause, which says that if the trust fails to utilise it within two years, it will be taken back. Vikhe Patil Foundation, floated by family members of Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil was allotted 5,396 sq m land for a college for Rs 17 lakh when its price was Rs 91 lakh based on market rates, prevailing at the time of allotment.

Ashirwad CHS
In another major revelation, the CAG report has audited allotment of land to Ashirwad Cooperative Housing Society in suburban Andheri. Members of the society include former and sitting legislators and relatives of prominent leaders. According to the CAG, income proofs submitted by the legislators to qualify as members of the society do not reveal their actual incomes. Hence, the affidavits submitted by them are false, the report says.

Deputy Speaker of State Assembly Vasant Purke, Ministers Rajraje Nimbalkar, Nitin Raut and Sanjay Deotale; former ministers Sunil Deshmukh and Sanjay Deshmukh; ex-MLAs Naresh Thakre, Jayant Sasane, Sudarshan Nimkar, Ajit Ghorpade, Anil Aher and Bhagyashree Patil; and wife of Minister Harshwardhan Patil have shown their income to be between Rs 6,000 and Rs 12,500 a month.

Moreover, Minister of State for PWD Ranjit Kamble and ex-MLA Chandrakant Chhajed have their flats in the society even though they are members in Rajyog housing society near Lokhandwala Complex, which is against government norms, says the report. Retired additional chief secretary Chitkala Zutshi and Finance Secretary Sudhir Srivastava also have their flats in Ashirwad society, though they are members of other housing society on the state government land.

Calculated move?
Even as the BJP took credit of exposing the CAG report, the rumour mills are abuzz that it was a deliberate attempt to put the prominent leaders in dock. How the contents of the yet to be tabled reports were leaked, asked a senior Congress leader, who also pointed out that except Chhagan Bhujbal all the leaders whose names were being dragged in belong to the Congress. The leak has come at a time when talks of a major cabinet reshuffle are on. Moreover, Bhujbal of late has not been in the good books of some NCP leaders, sources said.

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