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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Like Congress, like BJP: Nine prime acres for a song — this time for Gita Research Centre

In official government records, the land’s value is shown as Rs 50 lakh per acre. The current market price is estimated at around Rs 6 crore per acre.

Written by Varinder Bhatia , SUKHBIR SIWACH | Chandigarh | Updated: November 24, 2017 7:04:09 am
Gita Research Centre, Kurukshetra Gita Research Centre, manohar lal khattar, Congress, BJP, Gita Gyan Sansthanam, Ram Nath Kovind, International Gita Jayanti celebration Model of Gita Research Centre in Kurukshetra.

IN the past, the Congress government in Haryana has given prime land to NGOs, trusts and religious organisations at highly concessional rates. Now the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has followed suit giving nine acres in Kurukshetra for a song to Gita Gyan Sansthanam to develop a Gita Research Centre, an academic and meditation centre, a library and an auditorium.

While the auditorium and library are under construction, President of India Ram Nath Kovind is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the Gita Research Centre on November 25 and inaugurate a fortnight-long International Gita Jayanti celebration.

Records accessed by The Indian Express show that in 2015, six acres in possession of the Kurukshetra Development Board (KDB) was given to Sri Gyananandji Maharaj-led Gita Sansthanam at Rs 5 lakh per acre on an annual lease of 99 years. The land is located on the road leading to Brahma Sarovar in Kurukshetra.

In official government records, the land’s value is shown as Rs 50 lakh per acre. The current market price is estimated at around Rs 6 crore per acre.

The Haryana Governor is the ex-officio Chairman of KDB.

The Gita Sansthanam presented a layout plan of the project to KDB and requested the Governor for another three acres of adjoining land. These three acres were also leased to the Gita Gyan Sansthanam in December last year.

When contacted, Hansraj Singla, trustee of Gita Gyan Sansthanam, Kurukshetra said, “The land is given to us by KDB in 2015 and remaining portion in December, last year at a rate of Rs 5 lakh per acre. It was given on an annual lease for a period of 99 years and not for the purpose of ownership. The land is not given for the purpose of registration deed. It is given on lease and thus does not fall under the ambit of Collector rate. President of India is coming to inaugurate the centre this Saturday”.

Denying any favours extended by the state government, Hansraj Singla added, “The Research Centre shall be constructed with the sole purpose of imparting and spreading the message given in Gita and nothing else. Library and auditorium are already under construction as part of the same project”.

When contacted, Pooja Chanwaria, Chief Executive Officer, KDB, said, “The decision to give the the land to GIEO Gita Gyan Sansthanam was taken in the meeting of the Board. It is not taken individually by CEO or somebody else. I shall not be able to give any more details right now.”

Records show that KDB, in its 74th meeting held on August 31, 2006, had put a ban on alienation of land in the area. However, the decision was changed to give away the land on lease to Gita Sansthanam.

The BJP’s move is not unprecedented. Records show that previous state governments had also given prime land to NGOs, trusts and religious organisations. Few days before the 2014 Assembly polls, Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government gave six acres to ISKCON at the rate of Rs 38 lakh per acre. In 2013, the Haryana government gave five acres for setting up Akshardham temple at the rate of Rs 37 lakh per acre. In the same year on January 20, 2013, the Congress government gave five acres to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, Andhra Pradesh, on a 99-year lease at the rate of Re 1 per acre.

Since 2002, there had been 16 such instances wherein Haryana government had given away the land to such organisations at varied rates and terms and conditions.

Sources said the state government had recently purchased around 2,000 copies of the Gita written by Sri Gyananand at a rate of Rs 600 per copy. The books were distributed among ministers, Members of Legislative Assembly and senior bureaucrats.

A Panipat-based social worker P P Kapoor said, “In June, 2016, I had written to Haryana Governor, Chief Minister and KDB authorities apprising them about the irregularity in giving away this land.”

INLD’s National General Secretary R S Chaudhary, a retired IAS officer who had also remained a member of KDB in the past said, “The government has no right to indulge in such squandering of public land. Giving land to an organisation at such throw-away prices needs to be probed”.

The BJP government in Haryana is planning to develop Kurukshetra as a major religious tourism destination. During a press conference in New Delhi last month, Khattar said that the government had identified 134 spots of religious importance across five districts including 15 in Kurukshetra.

Said Haryana Education Minister and senior BJP leader Ram Bilas Sharma: “KDB has not given any land to any private party. All places in the periphery of Brahm Sarovar have been given to Ashrams, temples, Brahmin Samaj or places associated with Gita. We have not done any favour to Swami Gyananand. Last year, saints from all over the country; even chief of RSS Mohan Bhagwat and various other eminent persons came here and the groundbreaking ceremony was held. Swami Gyananand and his team is doing a great job. In fact, even in 17 jails of Haryana, his team and he himself are teaching Gita to the inmates. We have not done any favour to Swami Gyananand”.

But BJP MP from Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini, a critic of the government, is not impressed. “Whoever has his way takes everything; anybody who doesn’t have his way doesn’t get a single penny…that’s how this country runs. All I can say is, yes, it is very costly land. Whether it was given for promotion, research or for free, only God knows. I am going to hold a massive rally on November 26 and I shall speak openly on this only after that”.

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