Former telecom minister A Raja, already facing the 2G-spectrum storm, is now at the centre of an emerging land scam in his constituency Peremabulur in Tamil Nadu. He has been accused of helping his family and friends grab land a very low prices.
About 250 farmers have alleged that Green House Promoters, in which his wife and brother were directors till recently, had coerced and tricked them into selling their land at prices varying between 3% and 16% of market rates.
Green House managing director Sadiq Batcha, Raja’s close business associate, was questioned by the Central Bureau Investigation in the 2G spectrum scam, as he was suspected of laundering part of the money received as bribes in the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam.
Raja has been accused of using the district administration to put pressure on the farmers. N Chelladurai of the CPI (M)-backed Tamil Nadu Vyava-sayigal Sangham cited the example of Senthil (32), a farmer who owned 3.5 acre.
Senthil was arrested and remanded in judicial custody in a false case and the police repeatedly offered to quash the case if he agreed to sell his land. Finally, he had to give in.
But district collector N Vijaykumar told Hindustan Times that the government could not interfere in dealings between two private parties. “If, indeed, force or coercion has been used, I would strongly advise them (the farmers) to file a criminal complaint.”
In 2007, the state government acquired 26 acres for private sector tyre manufacturer MRF’s plant in the district, about 280km from here.
The company later bought about 439 acres from farm-ers, using brokers and sub-brokers.
Green House signed a memorandum of understanding with MRF for acquiring 430 acres, but acquired about 200 acres more for itself at Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 3 lakh an acre two years ago, when the prevailing prices were about Rs. 18 lakh an acre.
The company allegedly misled the sellers into believing that they would also be covered by MRF’s promise of one job for each family that sold land to the company.