In a span of 12 months from the first Covid lockdown last year, 12 Union Ministers or their family members purchased property across the country, including agricultural and non-agricultural land from Assam to Tamil Nadu, and an apartment in Delhi, according to their declaration of assets on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) website.
Of the 78-member Council of Ministers, those who declared the purchase of property in the financial year 2020-21, include three Cabinet Ministers — External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani, and Shipping and Ayush Minister Sarbananda Sonowal — and nine Ministers of State.
In all, 21 property purchases were declared on the PMO website since April 2020 by the 12 Ministers, including seven entries of agricultural land. Union Minister Irani and five Ministers of State purchased property in their respective Lok Sabha constituencies.
Apart from the 12 Ministers, Cabinet Minister Giriraj Singh and his wife reported the sale of two properties during this period at amounts that were nearly four-fold and over six-fold of the respective “cost of property” declared the previous financial year.
In his declaration, Jaishankar reported the purchase of a 3,085.29 sq ft second-floor apartment at South Delhi’s Vasant Vihar for Rs 3.87 crore. It shows the date of purchase as August 8, 2020, and lists the property under both “self” and “spouse”.
Irani’s declaration lists a property purchase in Amethi, the UP Lok Sabha constituency that she wrested in 2019 from the Gandhi family. Irani purchased a piece of land measuring 0.1340 hectare at a “present value” of Rs 12.11 lakh in Medan Mawai village on February 19, 2021.
Sonowal reported the purchase of three properties in Dibrugarh in February this year, when he was the Assam Chief Minister. A month later, Assam went to polls with the BJP retaining power and replacing Sonowal with Hemanta Biswa Sarma as Chief Minister. On July 7, 2021, Sonowal was accommodated in the Union Cabinet as Minister for Ports, Shipping & Waterways, and Ayush.
Sonowal’s declaration shows that he bought three parcels of land at Mancotta Khanikar Mouza for Rs 6.75 lakh (February 1), Rs 14.40 lakh (February 23) and Rs 3.60 lakh (February 25).
The declaration of Minister for Rural Development Giriraj Singh shows that he sold his 650 sq mts flat at Shivam Apartment in Patna for Rs 25 lakh on February 2, 2021. In the declaration last year, he had shown the “cost of property” as Rs 6.5 lakh “approx”.
Singh’s wife Uma Sinha sold one of her properties — a 1,087 sq mts house at Deoghar in Jharkhand — for Rs 45 lakh. In Singh’s declaration last year, the “cost of property” was shown as Rs 7 lakh “approx”.
The PMO website currently includes declarations of assets and liabilities of Union Ministers from 2013-14. Nine out of 45 Ministers of State declared the purchase of property in 2020-21:
* Shripad Yesso Naik; Ports, Shipping and Waterways: three properties in his constituency of North Goa, including two plots of non-agricultural land and a residential building. The plots — 1286.29 sq ft (Rs 7.23 lakh) and 188.37 sq ft (Rs 1.08 lakh) — are located at Panelim (St Pedro) and were purchased on November 27, 2020. The residential building — 968.75 sq ft (Rs 40.95 lakh) — is in Daugim and was purchased on December 8, 2020.
* Krishan Pal Gurjar; Power: three parcels of agricultural land through joint ownership in his Lok Sabha constituency of Faridabad in Haryana: for Rs 1.47 crore on October 10, 2020, in Bhupani; for Rs 1.95 crore on October 31, 2020, in Bhupani; and for Rs 4.21 crore on February 24, 2021, in Kheri.
* Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti; Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution: 1.214 hectare of land for Rs 36.42 lakh at Kripalpur in Kanpur on July 8, 2020.
Six of the nine Ministers of State who purchased property in 2020-21 were added to the Council of Ministers this year in the reshuffle on July 7. Their property purchases include:
* Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma; Small and Medium Enterprises: residential plot at Betwa Vihar locality in Jhansi for Rs 20 lakh in 2021.
* Annapurna Devi; Education: declared the purchase by her son of two parcels of land in her Lok Sabha constituency of Koderma (Rs 3.12 lakh), and Ranchi (Rs 9.75 lakh), in Jharkhand in July 2020.
* B L Verma; Development of North Eastern Region: 3,126.92 sq ft plot at Ujhani in Badaun (UP) for Rs 52 lakh in joint ownership on June 1, 2020, and a 3,510 sq ft plot at Manas Enclave Society in Lucknow for Rs 70 lakh in joint ownership October 7, 2020.
Verma has also declared agricultural land purchased by his wife at Butla Khanjan in Badaun (UP) on July 30, 2020. Incidentally, he has listed the purchase of land by his wife at the same location in the current fiscal, too, on June 25, 2021. Verma has listed the combined cost of both purchases as approximately Rs 8 lakh.
* Devusinh Chauhan; Communications: 5.79 acre agricultural land at Nadiad, in his Lok Sabha constituency of Kheda in Gujarat, by his wife for Rs 30.43 lakh on April 1, 2020.
* Dr Mahendra Munjpara; Women and Child Development: agricultural land at Sayla, in his Lok Sabha constituency of Surendranagar in Gujarat, for Rs 42,500 on June 28, 2020.
* Dr L Murugan; Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying: declared the purchase by his wife of non-agricultural land at Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu for Rs 5.73 lakh on July 2, 2020.
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