The Maharashtra government has started the process of rectifying land acquisition violations in the Lavasa hill city project, which is spread across 25,000 acres in Pune district. Revenue minister Narayan Rane on Friday issued an order to state officials asking them to work out proposals to regularise the land deals. This will involve the Lavasa Corporation paying penalties that will run into crores. “One of the irregularities pertaining to the Maharashtra Land Ceiling Act will work out to Rs 90 crore,” Rane said.
“There is irregularity in the way land was handed over to Lavasa, but the law has provision to regularise it,” the minister said. “Lavasa Corporation will have to pay penalties and everything will be by the Ready Reckoner rates.”
Lavasa refused to comment on Rane’s order and said it sticks to its earlier stand.
The project was being probed following allegations
of land acquisition irregularities and environmental violations.
In its August 21 edition, Hindustan Times reported that the Union environment ministry had sent a letter to the state asking for details of environmental clearance the state had given the project. After this, on August 23, the state had decided to review the land deals.
The revenue department has pointed to three kinds of irregularities in the project:
The first is related to 141 hectares of land, which was leased to Lavasa by the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) for 30 years at a nominal rent.
State laws required the MKVDC to take permission from the revenue department, but it did not do so.
The second refers to the purchase of 609 hectares of agricultural land under the Maharashtra Land Ceiling Act. It is being used for commercial purposes. The land was bought with permission from the Pune collector but the state’s procedures were not followed, the department said.
The third refers to the purchase of 292 hectares of tribal land; the company had permission to buy only 102 hectares, Rane said.
The department has now asked the Pune collector to submit regularisation proposals after working out penalties according to the Land Revenue Code, 1966.
Rane said the state would also appoint an authority to hear the grievances of people whose lands were acquired. The authority will report to the Pune collector and ensure that residents get compensation according to market value.
“There is no question of favouring anyone. I have done all this within the ambit of the law. Lavasa was declared a hill station and there is more than Rs 48,000 crore investment riding on it, which is important for state tourism,” he said.
“Errant officers will face action.”
Bhartiya Janata Party spokesperson Madhav Bhandari demanded a white paper on the issue. A white paper is an informal term for a parliamentary paper enunciating government policy.
“It is surprising that the revenue minister is calling this huge corruption an irregularity. Isn’t the state going to examine how these departments gave away land to Lavasa without following rules? This decision will set a precedent for other projects, encouraging them to go ahead with irregularities and then pay penalty to get it fixed,” he said.