In April 2012, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, then an Opposition MLA, had brought to the notice of the state government a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India report that had pointed to the misuse of government land allotted at paltry rates to institutions controlled by leading politicians. This had eventually forced the then Congress-NCP government to place the report before the state legislature. The CAG had then pushed for revision of the government’s policy for land allotment while seeking action against violators.
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On Tuesday, the Fadnavis government finally revised the policy when the Maharashtra Cabinet approved the proposal. But while the modifications introduced are expected to increase revenues from such allotments, they also provide these institutions an opportunity to “regularise” a breach in the conditions of lease.
In 2012, the CAG, naming 12 institutions controlled by politicians and leading business houses, had rapped the government for “overlooking the misuse of lands allotted on concessional rates”. While government norms require institutions allotted such lands to develop them for the intended purpose within three years of allotment, it had found that in several cases there had been inordinate delays in construction. Though the government has powers to resume lands in such cases and even recover penalties from the allottees, the CAG had observed that this was not being followed.
The revision introduced on Tuesday has enhanced the fees payable for extension beyond the three-year deadline, while incorporating provisions which would allow an allottee to apply for five such extensions spaced over two years. “The existing policy was silent on the number of extensions which could be granted. The fees collected for the grant of extension were not calculated on the land’s ready reckoner values (market values determined by the government) and were not a sufficient deterrent. They will now be collected on the basis of ready reckoner values,” said a senior official.
For the first such two-year extension, the government will collect 2 per cent over ready reckoner rate per annum as the extension fee. Sources said this would increase on telescopic basis for further extension. “This effectively translates into a ten-fold jump in amounts collected for granting extension,” the official said. While the existing policy was for reviewing proposals for extension on a case-to-case basis, the modified policy, admitted officials, will grant all allottees a “blanket provision” for seeking extension up to ten years.
The new extension rule will also be applicable to cases where the 10-year period has already been exhausted. In such cases, the government has proposed to allow an additional three-year period for construction, following which action would be taken. The modification is silent on action to be taken against allottees pulled up for violations of lease. The CAG report had details on how these land violations caused a loss to the public exchequer while defeating the very purpose of the allotments.
Meanwhile, in another contentious move, the Cabinet approved a legislation for validating transactions or transfers of grazing lands (Gairan lands) across the state.
Restrictions on the transactions of such lands were imposed followed a Supreme Court directive in 2011.
Defending the move, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said, “We have proposed that parties transacting such lands would have to compensate for the loss of grazing land by providing another patch, which is double the size, in the same village. This would lead to increase in the extent of grazing lands.”