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Land for a song

THE CONGRESS-RULED Neemuch Nagarpalika is alleged to have palmed off civic body land amounting to crores of rupees at a fraction of its actual cost. The land in question was cleared for allotment to three co-op societies but was instead handed over to politically influential persons.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2006 17:20 IST
Saeed Khan

THE CONGRESS-RULED Neemuch Nagarpalika is alleged to have palmed off civic body land amounting to crores of rupees at a fraction of its actual cost. The land in question was cleared for allotment to three co-op societies but was instead handed over to politically influential persons.

The upshot: Prime stretches of residential and commercial real estate adjoining Mhow-Nasirabad state highway valued at a
shade under Rs 11 crore was sold for a measly Rs 3 crore-plus. Both Congressmen and local saffron party bigwigs are reported to have benefited under the deal, alleged to have been masterminded by Nagarpalika Chairman Raghuraj Singh Choradiya, a close confidante of Mahendra Singh Kalukhera.

Shockingly, the real estate was sold without obtaining the sanction of the either the mayoral or general council or clearance from the State Government as mandated by the MP Nagarpalika Act, 1961. The allotment also violates the MP Nagarpalika (Immovable Property Transfer) Rules-1996 which decree that municipal land can only be sold either through open auction or via sealed tender bids.

The scam came to light after leader of the Opposition in the Nagarpalika Rakesh ‘Pappu’ Jain filed a complaint with the Lokayukta against the allotment of land and followed this up with a memorandum to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Jain’s plaint opened the floodgates and many others, including former Congress MLA Nandkishore Patel and Choradiya’s party colleague, voiced their protest against the allotment.

Since then the matter has been hitting the local headlines almost daily. More than 25 applications filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking the names of the allottees are pending with the Nagarpalika for over six months.

Significantly, even as the multi-crore scam has become the talk of the town in Neemuch, the district administration claims to be unaware of the matter.

In his complaint to the Lokayukta, dated June 20 2006, Jain alleged that more than 50 plots of commercial use in Nagarpalika Schemes No 34 and 36 B were sold to political bigwigs at a fourth of the prevailing market rates. And that, too, without the approval of either the mayoral or general council or the State Government.

“The illegal allotment in Scheme 36 B by the corrupt officers under the shelter of Choradiya has brought about a loss of Rs 8.72 crore to the corporation. Out of 64 commercial plots in Scheme No 36 B over 50 plots were sold without the council’s permission,” said Jain in a telephonic conversation with Hindustan Times from Neemuch.

“Around eight years ago the council approved land allotment to three co-op societies - Rajasva Griha Nirman Samiti, Kendriya Karmachari Sangh and Railway Karmachari Sangh Parishad. The then council had allotted a specific area to these three societies after legal sanction from the State Government.

Instead of allotting the land cleared by the government, officers of the municipal corporation have sold nearby land that was not approved for sale,” Jain alleged.