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CAG report storm gathers momentum

mumbai Updated: Apr 06, 2012 03:21 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

The yet-to-be-tabled report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which puts top Maharashtra politicians in the dock over land allotments, shows that in five instances, between 1983 and 2009, a total of 35 acres of land was given to educational trusts run by politicians at concessional rates that were as low as 1% to 50% of the market rate.

The draft report, leaked on Wednesday, created a furore in the state legislature.

The Opposition alleged that educational trusts controlled by four senior state ministers — public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal, industries minister Narayan Rane, Patangrao Kadam, agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, and Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh - had been allotted prime plots at throwaway prices, at the cost of the state exchequer and with blatant disregard to public interest.

Moreover, while the plots were ostensibly granted for educational purposes, in four of the five cases, the trusts failed to set up the proposed colleges and institutes for which they got the huge concessions. These lands have been lying vacant or are being for used commercial purposes as the trusts’ private properties.

Despite this, the government has not taken back the land, even though the norm states that the work for which land is allotted should be completed within two years. The Opposition said that all the five instances mentioned in the report are examples of land grab.

“Once the report is officially tabled in the House on April 16, we want a serious probe into the allegations by an independent agency such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), or a separately created unit,” said Eknath Khadse, Opposition leader.

Demanding that the report be brought out in public, activist Medha Patkar said: “This is in keeping with a disturbing trend in Maharashtra and across the country where land, a prime asset, is being grabbed by politicians and people in power to further private interests. All urban land is being released through repeal of laws to favour the rich, rather than provide housing for the poor and middle classes.”

With regard to Deshmukh and Bhujbal, the audit could be more problematic as the report has indicated a conflict of interest in the allotments to trusts controlled by them.

Deshmukh was the state chief minister in 2005, and approved the application of his own trust over four other applications, ostensibly to set up a dental college. In Bhujbal’s case, the report said the application was made by his nephew, NCP MP Sameer Bhujbal. The land, reserved for mining, was transferred from the public works department and was allotted despite objections by the finance department.