Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday ordered a judicial probe into the Kharghar land deal, in which plots were allotted to the Koyna power project affected persons (PAP). The land in Navi Mumbai was re-sold to private builders inviting charges of corruption against the state government.
Besides, 200 land deals in Raigad district made during the Congress-NCP regime in the past 15 years, in which plots were allotted to Koyna PAPs and later sold to private builders, would also be probed, Fadnavis said in the state Assembly. He added that the government will prepare a policy on land allotted to PAPs.
Earlier this week, the Congress, while alleging that government land in Navi Mumbai, worth Rs 1,767 crore, was given to a private builder for just Rs 3.60 crore, had claimed the transaction had the “blessings” of Fadnavis. It had said that the Fadnavis-led urban development department had helped the private builder “illegally acquire” 24 acres of notified land at Kharghar, in the name of compensating a group of families displaced by the Koyna power project. The Koyna hydroelectric project, one of the largest such ventures in India, was completed in phases in Satara district in 1981. Oustees of the project are scattered across the state and received compensation in form of land.
Dismissing the Opposition’s charge as founded on “half truth”, Fadnavis said on Thursday: “Whether it relates to allotment of land to PAP or allowing its sale to private builders, it was in accordance to the rules, which were framed during the tenure of former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.”
According to the rules, the additional district collector is empowered to allot land to PAPs. In the Kharghar deal, 24 hectares were allotted to 10 Koyna PAPs whose ready reckoner rate works out to Rs 5.30 crore, and not around Rs 1,700 crore as cited by the Congress, the CM said.
“In June 2012, then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had decided to allot category ‘A’ land, instead of category ‘B’, to the PAPs. It refers to agricultural land that is transferable and sellable. As per rules, PAPs are not just land holders but they also become land owners. As a result, such a person can sell the land to anybody, including private persons. It has the legal sanction,” Fadnavis said.
To counter the Opposition’s corruption charges, the CM cited 200 land deals that took place under the Congress-NCP regime. “During the 15 years of the Congress-NCP rule, 200 farmers sold land allocated to them… In 311 cases, PAPs were provided with 320 hectares. In 316 cases, where people were partially affected, 286 hectares were allotted, making the total land allotment to 606 hectares.”
He added: “There were 200 land deals in Raigad district, where PAP land had been sold to private builders. Now, does it mean that former chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan, late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan indulged in rampant corruption?”
“If the 606 hectares is evaluated on a square metre basis, it would work out to Rs 50,000 crore. Does it mean that the Congress-NCP indulged in a Rs 50,000 crore scam?” he asked.
The Congress had alleged such a scam could not have taken place without collusion between the revenue department and the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) — a town planning and development agency that is under the urban development ministry led by Fadnavis.
Reiterating that the Kharghar land belonged to the state government and the CIDCO happened to be a planning authority, Fadnavis said in the Assembly: “Since the land allotment jurisdiction is with the additional district collector, there is no reason why the file (related to such cases) should come to the revenue minister, relief and rehabilitation minister or the urban development department. Where is the question about the chief minister’s role?”
“Moreover, a court directive had told the district collector to take quick decision in allotting land to Koyna PAPs,” he added.
While Chavan agreed that there were changes incorporated during his tenure in the land allotment and transfer rules, he said files related to PAPs do not reach the Chief Minister’s Office. “We demand the Kharghar land deal be stayed till the probe is complete. Our objection is to the under evaluation of the land worth Rs 1,700 crore being awarded to the builder at pittance. The speed with which the agreement and the sale was made leads to a question mark on the role of government. Let them investigate 200 deals during our tenure. If there is any wrongdoing, they should act,” Chavan said.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said: “The government should cancel the Kharghar land deal. It clearly shows someone in the government had exercised powers to favour a developer.”