The purchase of 1.61 hectares of land in Bhosari, Pune, by relatives of revenue minister Eknath Khadse on April 27 is a clear case of conflict of interest and trading of favours, though the deal is technically legal, according to an official from Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).
State industries minister and Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai piled the pressure on Khadse on Monday. He said the land belongs to MIDC, which issued a notification in 1962 and acquired it after paying compensation to its owner, Abbas Rasulbhai Ukani. “After purchasing the land from Ukani, the MIDC has leased out it in smaller plots to various industrial units for 99 years. The land belongs to us and no other department has any role to play in it,” he said.
According to an officer in MIDC, after issuing the notification, the corporation took over the plot but did not complete the process of transferring ownership. “We found in a recent scrutiny, that Ukani technically remains owner of the land and has the right to sell it as the [ownership] procedure was not completed. The deal stands on legal ground,” said the officer, who did not wish to be named.
He added, however, that Khadse could be held guilty of conflict of interest. “As revenue minister, he held meetings with the Pune collector and MIDC officials to ascertain the value of the land and the compensation amount. He negotiated with Ukani for a low price despite the fact that the market value of the plot is Rs23 crore. This is a case of conflict of interest and quid pro quo,” he added. Ironically, Khadse was at the forefront of similar allegations against Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh society case.
It is alleged that Khadse’s wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhary bought the land in view of the hefty compensation they stood to gain from MIDC. The officer said, “Compensation for the plot under the Land Ceiling Act is two to four times the market rate, while under the MID Act it fixed through negotiations. Since the valuation is done by the revenue department, the new owners stand to gain a hefty amount.”
The officer also blamed MIDC for the controversy. “The MID Act, 1961, clearly states that negotiations for compensation and settlement should be completed in 40 years. In this case, more than 45 years have passed and the corporation has lost its right to claim ownership of the land,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam met governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and demanded that Khadse be sacked.