Industries Minister Subash Desai Monday questioned the controversial land deal involving the family members of Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, saying the three-acre Bhosari plot near Pune bought by them in April belonged to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).
Desai, a senior Shiv Sena minister, told The Indian Express, “The allocation of plots for the industrial units was done almost 40 years ago. The rules mandate that if the individuals don’t utilise the plot for the stated purpose, it has to be reverted to the MIDC. In any case, where was the provision for opening up this land deal for transaction?”
Avoiding any direct comment against Khadse, Desai said, “The only aspect to be scrutinised is to ascertain whether the individual (Abbas Ukani) who was allotted the MIDC plot has taken the compensation or not. And if not, whether it was for seeking higher compensation. But when it comes to ownership, there is no ambiguity that it (the land) belonged to the MIDC.”
With Desai asserting that the plot belongs to the MIDC, Khadse engaged in a damage control exercise Monday, saying the industries department had nothing to do with the three-acre land purchased by his wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari from Abbas Ukani on April 27 this year for Rs 3.75 crore. “Yes, I have bought the land in the name of my wife and son-in-law, paying the ready reckoner rates for the land,” he said. The minister went on to add that it was purchased from a private party or individual (Ukani) and that the land no longer belonged to the MIDC. To back his arguments, Khadse also showed letters written by former MIDC CEO Bhushan Gagrani, the Pune tehsildar and the Pune collector to show there was no dispute in the deal.
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“Under rules, it is mandatory that industrial land, if it remains unutilised for the stated purpose, has to be reclaimed within two years. Since the land was not procured, MIDC’s claim was null and void. Moreover, Ukani who had filed a case in court on some disputes related to compensation sought from the MIDC was looking for a lucrative customer to hand over the land,” Khadse said.
The minister added that Ukani, now based in Kolkata, had referred the matter to him since “I also hold charge of the Department of Minorities Welfare and Revenue”. “He wanted to sell the land and sought my help. Ukani is now 90 years old. And since his matter is in court, he has to travel to Mumbai and so he wanted to sell the land. Ukani urged me to look for a good buyer saying his efforts were not yielding any results.
Since the matter was in court, and the land title was in the name of Ukani, prospective buyers were not willing to put their money,” Khadse said.
According to the minister, that is when Ukani suggested that Khadse should purchase the land. “I informed him that I cannot buy the land in my name since I am a minister. To which, he indicated that my family could buy. I verified the legality from the industries department and MIDC. And only after a verification did I give the nod to my wife and son-in-law to buy the land,” said Khadse.
The minister said he did not see anything wrong in his family buying the private land, adding that he only tried to help an elderly person who wanted to settle the dispute.
Earlier in the day, Khadse also met Subash Desai to put across his point of view in the matter. Khadse said he told Desai that the latter had not been fully furnished with the details of the land transaction.