The Maharashtra government has decided to scrap the over three-decade-old policy that empowered the state to allot land for cultural and educational purposes at concessional rates. It plans to introduce a new policy that will reflect market rates for such allotments.
The revenue department will finalise the new policy, which will factor in market rates or the ready reckoner rates for land to be allotted for educational and cultural activities, senior officials have confirmed. The latest decision to jettison the old policy comes in the backdrop of the controversy over allotment of a prime plot of land in Andheri for a dance academy to actor and BJP MP Hema Malini at a concessional price of Rs 70,000.
Fadnavis said, “We have taken a decision to replace the earlier policy, which was flawed, with a new one based on the ready reckoner rates. The decision to levy 25 per cent of the 1976 rates, a meagre amount, is not justifiable. I have asked the department officials to bring out a new policy.”
The government resolution of 1983 allows leasing out land for educational and cultural purposes at 25 per cent of the 1976 rates. The policy came into vogue when a Congress government was in power in Maharashtra. Successive governments over the last 32 years chose not to alter these rules, using it to allot prime plots to various trusts at nominal rates.
In the past, several prominent politicians availed of the laid rules to acquire the prime land for their cultural and educational trusts. The list of beneficiaries include former chief minister (late) Vilasrao Deshmukh, former chief minister A R Antulay, Congress leader, Rajiv Shukla and late BJP leader Gopinath Munde.
The rules for land allotment now are likely to be based on the ready reckoner rates which are determined after the government takes into consideration current rates for realty. After the new policy is finalised, it would be placed before the cabinet for approval.
However, the government is non-committal on the fate of the land allotted to Hema Malini. A senior official said, “We will have to look into the matter as it had cabinet consent and was in accordance with the rules which were in existence then.”
The issue came to light after Right To Information activist, Anil Galgali questioned the land allotment to Hema Malini at nominal price of Rs 70,000 based on the 1984 Government Resolution.
A senior official said, “Take the case of land alloted to Hema Malini for Rs 70,000. The plot will run into several lakhs if ready reckoner rates are enforced.”
However, a decision on whether to enforce the new rules retrospectively will be taken at the cabinet meeting. The government is also consulting the legal department to ascertain the legal ramifications on allotment of plots which have been recently handed over to individuals or trusts. Earlier, a trust with which Congress leader and MP, Rajiv Shukla was associated was allotted land at Bandra for just Rs 1 lakh. Sources said, “Today the price of the prime land is not less than Rs 100 crore.” After a controversy, Shukla announced that the trust was returning the land, which was taken possession of by the government.
Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, however, expressed ignorance about the decision to scrap the old rule. He said, “I am not aware of any such decision of scrapping the old rules and replacing it with new.” The new policy will have be to evolved by the ministry of revenue, which is led by Khadse.