Shiv Sena minister Subhash Desai on Monday became the second minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government after Eknath Khadse to be probed for conflict of interest in a matter involving disposal of lands meant for industrial purposes. After the Opposition accused Desai of impropriety in a land matter in Nashik, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday constituted a committee to investigate the matter. The General Administration Department, which Fadnavis heads, issued formal orders on Monday appointing a one-man committee of retired Additional Chief Secretary (Home) KP Bakshi in this regard.
During the monsoon session of the legislature, the Opposition had raised an allegation that Desai had denotified 16,909 hectares of land belonging to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) in Nashik’s Igatpuri to favour a private development. While Desai refuted the allegations, the CM announced on the floor of the legislature on August 12 that an “independent” inquiry would be commissioned to probe the allegation.
In June last year, BJP’s Eknath Khadse, who was the seniormost minister in the Fadnavis government, had to step down following allegations of impropriety in purchase of land in Pune’s Bhosari, which MIDC has claimed belonged to it. A committee, headed by a retired judge, had probed the matter.
Incidentally Bakshi, a 1982-batch IAS officer, is also the Chairman of the Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority (MWRRA), leading to questions being raised on the CM’s claim that an “independent” inquiry would be commissioned.
With Desai maintaining that 9,335 hectare land out of the 16,909 hectare was denotified during the previous Congress-NCP regime, the Chief Minister has also asked the committee to review denotification orders issued in Igatpuri and all other MIDC areas over the past decade and a half. Desai had earlier named two former Congress ministers — Rajendra Darda and Narayan Rane — who too had denotified lands during their tenures as Industries ministers.
Refuting allegations that the denotification was done to benefit a developer, the Shiv Sena minister has been maintaining that the exercise was done for the benefit of 113 local farmers, who had opposed the acquisition process. He had further stated that his decision was preceded by favourable recommendations in this regard from the MIDC and the district collectorate. The Chief Minister has asked the committee to probe whether all norms, regulations, guidelines, and processes had been followed for the denotification. The GAD’s orders do not specify a timeline for the committee to complete the probe.