Six years after the land scam under the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA) was discovered in Pune, another scam to the tune of Rs600 crore has been unearthed by a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the city. While in the 2005 scam, fake orders under the ULCRA were used to grab land, this time the state government had illegally transferred a government-owned plot worth Rs600 crore at a prime location to a private builder for development, a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Mumbai-based NGO in the Bombay high Court alleged.
Kiran Bagalia, counsel for Public Concern for Governance Trust, pointed out irregularities in re-granting and transferring the said land to Harshwardhan Infrastructures Pvt. Ltd., and sought orders staying development of the plot. A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice SJ Vazifdar on Monday declined to impose restrictions on the developer and observed that the developmental work undertaken on the plot would be subject to the outcome of the PIL filed by the NGO. The bench also directed government pleader Vijay Patil to file reply within four weeks.
According to the PIL, the plot at Wanavadi in Pune was earlier a Mahar Watan land, allotted to some members of the Scheduled Caste from Wanavadi village towards their service. In 1950, the state government took a policy decision, and the plot was taken over by the then collector in July 1955.
Ghatkopar resident Rajmanishingh Ramdularsingh had filed a purported revision application before the then revenue minister sometime between November and December 1993. He had sought re-granting of the plot to seven Watandars of Wanvadi on the basis of a power of attorney, the PIL states adding, minister granted permission for the same on November 18, 1994.
According to the minister’s order, initially all the land, except about six hectares held by the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), was re-granted to seven Watandars. However, the order was modified in June 2002, and even the land in possession of the SRPF, except the area under authorised structures, was allotted to the power of attorney holder.
The PIL contends that though the state government had the authority to re-grant Watan lands, those could be reallocated to Watandars only for the purpose of cultivation, and not for development purpose.
According to the petition, Pune collector had allowed transfer of the Watan land to builders although the land measurement officer had specifically pointed out by in his letters in March and May 2002 that more than nine hectares of the plot was in possession of the police department and more than two hectares had been utilised by the municipal corporation for construction of roads.