A continuing scandalhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/a-continuing-scandal/

A continuing scandal

Government exercises discretionary powers in land allotment to benefit a favoured few

Government exercises discretionary powers in land allotment to benefit a favoured few

The story of the 28 plots allotted in Uttar Pradesh in 2005 by the erstwhile Samajwadi Party government headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav appears to be another textbook case of how state governments use their discretionary powers in land allotment to give great deals on prime property to politicians and government officials,and their cronies and families. As this paper has reported,the allottees included current Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s father-in-law,the state revenue minister’s wife,the CM’s secretary and several IAS and IPS officers. The specific details of the UP allotments in 2005 may differ from those in the Adarsh controversy that erupted in Maharashtra in 2010,but the two cases frame the same enduring problem.

Indeed,be it in Maharashtra,UP or Andhra Pradesh,recurring land allotment scams point to a fundamental malaise. Real estate continues to be the most discretion-laden sector,and the latitude enjoyed by state governments distorts the level-playing field and ensures that it is tilted to benefit insiders and the favoured few. The problem is aggravated by the fact that land deals are a prime source of income for ruling parties,which is why they resist making the land allocation regime more transparent. These discretionary powers,which have drawn sharp disapproval from the apex court,had allowed former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to de-notify plots near Bangalore,allegedly for the benefit of his family members. When the controversy broke into public view last year,Yeddyurappa’s defence was essentially that every-CM-does-it,while his party president made the hair-splitting argument that the action was immoral,but not illegal. Now,the UP government has told the SC that all rules and regulations were followed in 2005.

After Adarsh,Maharashtra has made moves to pare down the CM’s discretionary powers in land allotment. Andhra Pradesh,rapped by the CAG in March on allotments to individuals and companies with “grave irregularities”,has now decided to come out with a new land allotment policy. The discretionary powers of government over land must be whittled down drastically if this continuing scandal is to be addressed.