The Mahrashtra government is seeking to review the controversial allotment of prime land in Mumbai to an organisation linked to union minister Rajiv Shukla at a throwaway price.
The move by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavans government came as the Congress distanced itself from the controversy and said Friday it had not spared anyone found guilty of wrongdoing and even big ministers have been sent to jail.
Officials said Maharashtras revenue department,which decides on allotment of state-owned land,has sought a report from the Mumbai suburban collector on land made available to Shuklas BAG Film Education Society (BFES).
The state had in December 2008 allotted a prime plot in Andheri reserved for a municipal school and leased another for a playground.
Additional chief secretary (revenue) Swadhin Kshatriya told The Indian Express that most documents related to the allotments were destroyed in the Mantralaya fire last June.
We are checking the facts and have asked for a report from the collector, Kshatriya said. Asked if a decision has been taken to cancel the allotment,Kshatriya said: We will take a call after we study the collectors report.
One plot measuring 2,821 sq m,and reserved for a municipal school by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation,was allotted for just Rs 98,735. Another 3,534 sq m plot – reserved for a playground – was leased for 15 years to BFES for a paltry Rs 6,309.
BFES,headed by Shuklas wife Anuradha Prasad,had entered into a joint venture with RIMS International,a management education institute which also runs schools,months after the allotment.
Shukla was secretary of BFES in 2007 when it applied for land. He has sought to put a lid on the controversy by meeting Chavan and offering to return the plot if there was any irregularity in the allotment.
In the trust deed submitted to the state government,BFES,however,said it could engage in primary and secondary education,higher and technical education,and even professional and vocational training.
Although it is five years since the land was allotted and the trust was also sanctioned a loan of Rs 5.88 crore by the Central Bank of India,construction has not started as the plot has been encroached by slums.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya wrote to Chavan earlier this week alleging that the plot valued at Rs 100 crore was allotted to BFES for less than Rs 1 lakh.
Officials in the suburban collectors office said the Rs 98,735 charged for the plot represented 25 per cent of its 1976 market price estimated at Rs 3.94 lakh. A May 11,1984 government resolution says not-for-profit institutions which build educational institutes will get land at concessional rates and the base rate of land was fixed at the rate of 1976, an official said.
The idea was to allow institutes to come up with low cost education that is affordable even to the weaker sections. The current allotment is not illegal as it has followed all norms and got all clearances. But is it ethical is the question, the official said.
As per the terms and conditions of the allotment,BFES was to begin construction within two years. It was granted an extension until February 2013 by the collectors office. BFES then applied for a further extension with the revenue department, the official said.
Asked about the controversial allotment,Congress spokesman Bhakta Charan Das said in Delhi that the truth should come out.
If some facts have come out through RTI,there are examples in this country of legal action being taken on the basis of those facts…The Congress stand is clear. Big ministers have been sent to jail. We have not spared anyone. The DMK withdrew support to us,we did not even think about saving our government…We will not talk about individuals, Das said.
We will tell you what the party will do when truth comes out and legal action is taken on the basis of that truth. Asked if Shukla should resign if there is truth in the allegations,he said,If there is truth,anybody should resign.
Shukla,when reached for comment,claimed there was no irregularity in the allotment at a concessional rate as the society intended to construct a school there and not undertake any commercial activity.
Why is the commercial value of the plot being talked about? The society did not plan to do any commercial activity on that plot. The purpose is to set up a school, Shukla told The Indian Express.
He said the society has not got actual possession of the plot even after five years as there are still some 40 huts there. Shukla said he has already spoken to Chavan and told him that he was free to take the plot back if he found any irregularity.