Updated: May 15, 2022 6:46:10 am
“Our stand is very clear. It was an encroachment on government land and we have followed all due procedure and we have removed it.”
That’s Khargone District Collector Anugraha P to The Indian Express when asked about the April 11 demolition of Hasina Fakhroo’s house built under the Prime Minister Awas Yojna (Urban), as first highlighted in this newspaper.
One month since the demolition, the claims of “due procedure” do not match what played out on the ground, reveals an investigation by The Indian Express of land records, tehsildar orders, bank statements and the sequence of events before the bulldozer rolled in on April 11.
It shows that Hasina’s house was geotagged five times as per PMAY guidelines; its photos were uploaded at every key stage of construction, two featured the beneficiary (she and her son) standing at the door. Bank records show that Rs 2.5 lakh was paid, in instalments, into Hasina’s bank account at regular intervals over a year.
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In fact, it was only after four rounds of geotagging and the transfer of Rs 2 lakh to the beneficiary’s account, that the first notice of encroachment was issued to Hasina by the Nagar Tehsildar.
She denied the charges and on March 10 this year, the Tehsildar court ordered her construction illegal. Yet, even after this order, a payment of Rs 50,000 was made to her account and Hasina’s house was demolished just four days — that included a weekend — after the second notice on April 7.
This, she said, gave her no time to appeal against the order to the SDM or to the High Court.
That the demolition happened the very next day after a communal clash in the neighbourhood, the administration claims, is mere coincidence. Ironically, another PM Awas Yojana House was damaged — this one belonging to Leela Bai Chhagan Lal, in stoning by a mob. But more of that later — the demolition is now the subject of a case in the Supreme Court.
Geotagging and payments
Records accessed by The Indian Express show that Hasina’s house was geotagged five times on the Bhuvan HFA (Housing For All) app — a platform of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Geo-tagging is a process of adding exact geographical identification to various media, including photographs:
- The first geo-tagging of Hasina’s plot was on July 22, 2020 by an “observer” from a Gurgaon-based firm, Egis India Consulting. The picture uploaded on the Bhuvan App shows her son, Amjad, standing in front of their tin-roof house at “7, Khaskhaswadi” in Khargone. Details uploaded by the observer record that the house was “Kachcha (Grass or Thatched or Tarpaulin or Wooden),” “occupied” by the beneficiary.
- The second geo-tagging was done after construction reached the foundation and plinth level on January 24, 2021. The photo uploaded on Bhuvan app shows the door and window frame in the front wall.
- The third geo-tagging was done on January 27, 2021 when construction reached the lintel stage.
- When the roof was ready, the fourth geo-tagging took place on May 10, 2021 and the “observer” uploaded a picture of Hasina standing in front of the house with construction material lying around her.
- The fifth and final geo-tagging was done on November 3, 2021 when the house was completed. The picture uploaded shows Hasina standing in front of her newly built house. The front wall of the house had a stamp of the scheme showing the name and ID of the beneficiary and mentioning that the house was approved during 2019-20 and constructed with a grant of Rs 2.5 lakh.
Egis declined to comment.
Payments were linked to geo-tagging. Records show that the first instalment of Rs 1 lakh was paid to Hasina’s bank account on October 28, 2020; the second of Rs 1 lakh was credited on March 31, 2021 and the final instalment of Rs 50,000 was credited on April 4, 2022.
Records show that during the construction period — between January 24, 2021 and May 10, 2021 — the geo-tagging recorded that electricity, water and sewage connections were not available at construction site. However, once the house was completed, all these connections were provided.
Hasina’s house was built as part of the construction of 1480 dwelling units in Khargone for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) vertical of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban.
Under BLC, the eligible beneficiary should have ownership rights over land or a patta or property tax receipts of the plot where the beneficiary wants to construct the house. In this case, Hasina’s house was approved by Nagar Palika, Khargone on the basis of tax receipts.
Incidentally, Para 7.8 of the scheme’s guidelines, circulated by the Centre to all states, mandate geo-tagging for monitoring. The guidelines also make it mandatory for state authorities to put on record “whether it has been ensured that selected beneficiaries have rightful ownership of the land,” and it’s the responsibility of the urban local body to verify the information provided by the beneficiary and check her eligibility.
When contacted, officials at Nagar Palika, Khargone, claim the “geo-tagging was done by a third-party agency” and they did not provide further details.
Notices to Hasina
After four rounds of geotagging and transfer of Rs 2 lakh to the beneficiary account, records show, the first notice was issued to Hasina by the Nagar Tehsildar, Khargone, on September 17, 2021.
This notice alleged that the family had encroached on the government land, under Khasra No. 379, measuring 900 square feet — a pucca house on 12×30 feet area and 18×30 feet kachcha house.
On September 28, 2021, Hasina replied saying she, a “widow,” had “constructed the house on the said land for residential purpose of her family after it was approved in her husband’s name under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.” She said her family did not have any other house.
On April 7, 2022, the Tehsildar (Khargone Nagar), informed the family that the Tehsildar court had passed an order on March 10, 2022, that the family had encroached on government land, measuring 900 square feet under Khasra No. 379, Khaskhaswadi, Birla Marg, Khargone, without the approval of the competent authority.
Hasina and son Amjad said they never received the March 10 order. Asked if the order was communicated to her, officials declined to comment.
On April 7, the court gave a three-day ultimatum to Hasina to remove the encroachment, inform the Tehsildar court in writing, failing which the administration would remove the “illegal” encroachment and recover the cost of the removal.
On April 9, the family replied to the notice that she had a kachcha house on the land measuring 900 square feet where she had been living for the last 40 years. She said she had received a grant under the PMAY-U scheme with which she constructed her house. Therefore, she should not be evicted from the house, Hasina stated.
The very next day, clashes broke out during a Ramnavami procession and at least 10 homes were set ablaze 1 km away from Hasina’s house.
The next day, her house was among about a dozen structures, demolished by the administration.
Said Hasina: “Jab todna tha toh hamari kothi kyon pass ki? (When it was to be demolished, then why did they approve our house?)”
Officials said the PMAY house was approved for a different address but declined to give details when asked about that address.
The Indian Express found three addresses in records related to Hasina.
One, the demolished house is at Khasra 379, Khaskhaswadi, Birla Marg; in her affidavit filed on October 21, 2020, Hasina applied for an “extension” of their house in Ward No. 11, Khaskhaswadi Mohalla. Hasina and her son say that both these are the same addresses — The Indian Express visited Ward No. 11 and couldn’t trace any house of Hasina’s.
A third address figures in a record dated November 2020, related to Hasina’s application for assistance under Rashtriya Parivar Sahayata Yojana, under which Rs 20,000 is provided on the death of the “primary breadwinner” of a household living below poverty line conditions. That mentions Street No. 6 at Khaskhaswadi Ward No. 11. The Indian Express visited the area and locals said there was no Street Number 6.
On these discrepancies, an official said: “She built the house at a place that wasn’t approved. She got the notice, she should have stopped construction.”
Asked why was geo-tagging done and payments made, the official said: “This is a third-party issue, they contacted her directly.” Asked if she was aware that Hasina’s house was geotagged and payments had been made to her account even as she got notices, Collector Anugraha did not comment.
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