Chhattisgarh forestland ‘deal’: Will return land if anomalies in deal proved, says BJP minister

The minister’s wife, Sarita Agrawal, had bought 4.12 hectares. The land was donated by a farmer named Vishnu Sahu to the state Water Resources Department in 1994, and it was subsequently transferred to the Forest Department. The department spent Rs 22.90 lakh on the piece of land in 2003 as part of an afforestation drive.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Raipur | Updated: August 1, 2017 10:30 am
Brijmohan Agrawal, Chhattisgarh forestland deal, BJP, Land scam, forest department, India news, Indian Express Brijmohan Agrawal

TWO DAYS after The Indian Express reported that the wife of powerful Chhattisgarh minister and BJP leader Brijmohan Agrawal had bought land which belonged to the state Forest Department and, along with her son, was building a resort on it, the minister on Wednesday claimed that no irregularities were committed in the transaction.

If any agency, “internal or external”, found any irregularities, he would return the land immediately, Agrawal, who holds the Agriculture and Water Resources among other portfolios in the Raman Singh government, said.

The Indian Express had reported Monday that the minister’s wife, Sarita Agrawal, had bought 4.12 hectares. The land was donated by a farmer named Vishnu Sahu to the state Water Resources Department in 1994, and it was subsequently transferred to the Forest Department. The department spent Rs 22.90 lakh on the piece of land in 2003 as part of an afforestation drive.

A resort is now being developed on the land near Sirpur in Mahasamund district, nearly 100 km northeast of state capital Raipur. Additional land for the project has been acquired by companies in which Sarita Agrawal and son Abhishek are partners.

Addressing the media at his residence in Raipur on Wednesday, the minister said, “In 2009, when the land was bought, all rules and regulations were followed. My wife and son are private citizens and bought the land from someone whose name was in the registry. All revenue procedures were completed and payments were made — at no point was this transaction illegal”

Agrawal said neither he nor his family members had received any notices about investigations or inquiries. Suggestions that the land belonged to the government “would not come in dream”, he asserted.

Lalit Chandranahu of the farmers’ organisation Kisan Mazdoor Sangh of Mahasamund district had told The Indian Express Tuesday that he wrote to the minister in 2015, notifying him that the land belonged to the Forest Department, and that they had spoken on the phone.

But Agrawal Wednesday said, “I do not want to look at (any event) before 2009 or after that. It is clear that purchase of the land is above board. I challenge any agency, internal or external, to look at it (transaction) — if there is any wrongdoing, I will return the land.”

The Indian Express had reported that after Chandranahu received a complaint in March 2015, and a subsequent complaint by a whistleblower was sent to the PMO in December 2016, the Mahasamund district collector as well as the departments of Forest and Water Resources — the latter is under Agrawal — all acknowledged that the piece of land was transferred to the Forest Department. They also acknowledged that Rs 22.90 lakh was spent on the land for afforestation, but there was laxity in updating the land records.

Claiming that this is a conspiracy against his family, Agrawal said, “I don’t believe in this kind of politics. The conspirators should remember that they have families too, and this should not be done.”

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