Alleging huge loss of public revenue on land leased by the government, former information commissioner and Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi, on Monday, sent legal notices to additional chief secretary (revenue) Swadheen Kshatriya, collector Chandrashekhar Oak and suburban collector Sanjay Deshmukh.
The notices are in reference to the new lease policy of the government, which offers leasehold land ownership and rents as a percentage of the ready reckoner rates instead of the market rates.
Hindustan Times had reported how 666 government-leased plots in the city are up for lease renewal, currently paying an annual rent of up to Rs4,000 for sprawling areas.
The new policy gives landowners an option of buying the land at discounted rates — 20-30 per cent of the ready reckoner rates — or payment of revised leases ranging from 2-25 per cent of the reckoner rates.
Gandhi has asked the trio to explain why the lessees have been allowed to continue occupying the land as unauthorised occupiers (as their leases have expired), without a revision of the lease rent.
In his notice, he also asked them the reason behind the formulation of a “bizzare policy” that “decides to give largesse only to people who were given leases earlier, and has no rational basis”.
According to Gandhi, the responses received from the revenue department suggest that no calculation of revenue potential has been done since 2005.
He claimed that the government has arbitrarily decided to put up the lands on a 75% discounted sale, while limiting buyers to its existing lessees.
“All this seems arbitrary, and is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, since it decides to give largesse only to people who were given land on lease earlier, and has no rational basis,” reads Gandhi’s notice.
In his notice to Kshatriya, he has stated, “The concept of giving lands on lease is adopted by states to get an inflation-proof revenue stream. And being a public servant representing the poorest man in Vidarbha who may be starving, and who is an equal and rightful owner of this land, it is necessary that appropriate revenue be obtained for him and his land and his interest is safeguarded”.