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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Satyam’s sprawling land bank barren and rocky

The largest chunk of land purchased by the “front” companies floated by Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju...

Written by Ritu Sarin | Loyapally | Published: February 8, 2009 11:02:32 am

The largest chunk of land purchased by the “front” companies floated by Satyam founder Ramalinga Raju and his relatives is located in and around Loyapally,a village in the Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh. In all,as per records with investigators,2,116 acres were mopped up in a frenzied acquisition drive which began in 2006 with paperwork being done by a dozen Satyam employees who stayed in a rented house in Loyapally for a year and disappeared once the 205 land deeds were thumb-marked and registered.

The 85-km drive from Hyderabad takes you through palm fields,the road ringed by rocky hills,the Chinarajakonda (small hills) on the left and the Pedarajakonda (big hills) on the right. The village,with arid land and poor groundwater levels,is inhabited by Lambada tribals and other backward classes.

It is only when you mention “Satyam Computers” to the tribals that the bizarre angle of Loyapally’s land acquisition unfolds. For,what has been described as “dry land” in the stacks of sale deeds lying in the Registrar’s office in the taluka headquarters in Ibrahimpatnam,is actually hundreds and hundreds of acres of the rolling hills themselves,which villagers say are too rocky and high for even cattle to graze.

“We have not sold an inch of flat agricultural land to Satyam,” declares Loyapally’s sarpanch Srinivas Gaud. “It is only these hills which have been sold by us and even this land the villagers are willing to buy back from Satyam now,” he says. The Sarpanch said that soon after Satyam came with a shopping list,he too sold 120 acres belonging to his family for between Rs 40,000 and Rs 3 lakh an acre. Other villagers say they got much less and that the “middlemen” took a larger chunk of the profit.

For instance,Kopula Anjaya says he sold slivers of 215 acres of his family’s hill for as little as Rs 10,000 an acre. Or Kawali Janaya who sold 150 acres belonging to 23 members of his family for Rs 7,000 an acre. He now says,“These hills actually belong to the Nawabs and we have only usurped them and divided them between the families of Loyapally. When the Satyam people first came and the Sarpanch too sold his land,we all followed.”

Last month,when the villagers of Loyapally heard about Raju’s arrest and the fact that Satyam had similarly acquired thousands of acres in adjoining districts,they broke down the boundary walls constructed by Satyam employees around their hills. And began collecting wildberries and tamarind from the foothills again.

The procedure for the sale of lands in Loyapally appears to be identical in the hundreds of land agreements registered by the Satyam firms in Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka and Maharashtra. In all,investigating agencies have seized records (from the secret places where they were hidden by Raju’s key aide,Datla Gopalakrishnan Raju) of acquisition of land totaling 7,651 acres.

Of these,5,505 acres are registered in the names of companies floated by Raju and his clan and 2,146 acres in the names of individual family members. Officials in Hyderabad’s Stamp and Registration office explained that the land acquisition of the hills in Loyapaly followed the familiar pattern. In this case,a general Power of Attorney was taken by a local teacher,Akula Rajaiah,and then the hills,re-sold in the names of Ramalinga Raju’s key associates,including Datla Gopalakrishna Raju himself.

Says Aravinda Reddy,Andhra Pradesh’s Commissioner and Inspector General of Stamps and Registration,“Land acquisition on such a massive scale by private companies has never been witnessed by us before. Ramalinga Raju and his managers took over such large tracts of rocky,inhospitable land thinking they will sell it off for SEZs. But land prices fell and the land transfers came under a cloud once the financial scam was exposed.”

K Jayakar,the Sub-Registrar of Ibrahimpatnam,said that while there was nothing illegal about the purchase of land,there was an element of deception. “The tribals of Loyapally,for instance,were assured by the Satyam managers that very soon,schools and hospitals would be constructed on the hills they were disposing off. They were also given the promise of employment,” he pointed out. “In my opinion Ramalinga Raju bought worthless land since it will take decades for these rocky mountains to have any commercial value.”

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