Industries minister Narayan Rane on Thursday said the final clearance to allotting Malad land had been given by then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
The allotment of the one-acre plot at Malad, leased by the Army from Maharashtra government and sold by the latter to a private company in June 2007, has come under scanner of the Union Ministry of Defence. It is alleged that the army had to vacate the land due to pressure from the higher ups.
Rane, who was revenue minister when the decision was taken, said that the land deal was cleared since the Defence authorities had given their no objection certificate. “The land deal had all the NoCs from the defense establishment.
It was (Mumbai suburban) collector’s proposal that came to me. We followed right procedures before forwarding it to the CM,”Rane said. He added that the then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had given final clearance to the land sale. Though the land allotments come under revenue department, any land deal in Mumbai which is valued over Rs. 25 lakh goes to the chief minister for clearance.
Deshmukh, then chief minister, told Hindustan Times that he did not know much about the deal. “I’m traveling now and I will get back to you once I get information.”
Revenue secretary Swadhin Kshatriya said that he was gathering information from the collector.
“I will comment only after two-three days.” Significantly, the suburban collectorate, which gave a green signal to the sale put the whole onus on the defense establishment saying that they had withdrawn their initial objections.
A senior official from the collector’s office, who declined to be named, told HT that there was a precedent to sell the plot if the lessee did not object to it. “Initially the defence had raised objections, but we went and convinced them after which they backed down,” said the official. He further said that there were no orders of any probe in this matter from the higher ups.
The land in question was in possession of the Central Ordinance Depot (COD) since 1942 and sale took place despite resistance from COD. Meanwhile, the Kalpataru Group which owns the Neo-Pharma that bought the land, has defended its deal saying that it was a state government land purchased by it at market price. It also insisted that the Group were responsible for stopping encroachment on this empty plot on a number of occasions.
According to the press statement issued by Kalpataru, it had approached the Collector for land in the year 1999. After two years, the collector in 2001, asked all neighbouring plots for any objections in this matter.
In 2004, the collector also sent a reminder to the defence establishments for their objections and finally in 2007, based on the collector’s recommendation, the revenue departments gave a green signal at the market price of Rs. 5 crore.
The land was finally physically handed on July 9, 2007. In 2008, the representative of the COD and collector were present to mark the boundaries of the plot, stated the release.