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Baba lands in more trouble

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev appears to have yet another charge of illegal land possession to answer to.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2011 00:06 IST
Anupam Trivedi

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev appears to have yet another charge of illegal land possession to answer to. After reports of his Patanjali Yogpeeth receiving 96 bighas (1 bigha is 8,470 sq ft in Himachal Pradesh) of land in Solan district at throwaway prices left the BJP government red faced, a recent report by the Haridwar administration said the Yogpeeth also had illegal possession of 120 bighas (14,400 sq feet per bigha in Uttarakhand) in Aurangabad village.

The administration had initiated an inquiry by the sub divisional magistrate (SDM) after a former village head of Aurangabad complained to chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal that the Yogpeeth was "grabbing" village land.

"The charges are false," said Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdev's second-in-command in Haridwar on Thursday.

"It's a legal issue and has to do with land transfer. We are offering land against land."

The Yogpeeth has offered land in exchange and has filed a case in the SDM court.

The Yogpeeth, in Haridwar's Bahadarabad, was on an expansion mode since it opened in 2005.

Its tiff between the residents of Aurangabad and Teliwala began in 2008, after the Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust reportedly used 'clout' to get the land.

According to documents in possession with HT, on February 2, 2008, the trust requested the state for 325 hectares (3.25 sq km) of land.

Soon after, locals complained to then chief minister BC Khanduri that the administration was in the process of cancelling pattas (registration for agriculture land) to pave way for the allotment of 2,200 bighas.

A September 2008 report by the district magistrate, however, said: "Neither land has been acquired for Patanjali nor it has been donated by villagers."

But in 2010, the government admitted it had allotted 50 hectares in Aurangabad and 155 hectares in Teliwala to the trust.

Revenue minister Diwakar Bhatt told HT: "Ramdev's application for land is pending with the government and we will not allot additional land to the trust."