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Land ‘scam’ uproar in Maharashtra Assembly, CM Fadnavis orders inquiry

Leaders from the Congress party had alleged the state’s urban development department, which is headed by Fadnavis, helped private builders Paradise Group “illegally acquire” land in Navi Mumbai that had been allotted to farmers displaced by the Koyna power project.

mumbai Updated: Jul 06, 2018 10:44 IST
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.(HT)

Even as he refused allegations of favouring a private builder in an alleged scam involving land allotted to farmers affected by the Koyna dam project, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a judicial inquiry into the matter on Thursday.

On July 2, leaders from the Congress party had alleged that the state’s urban development department, which is headed by Fadnavis, helped private builders Paradise Group “illegally acquire” land in Navi Mumbai that had been allotted to farmers displaced by the Koyna power project.

Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam said that 24 acres worth ₹1,768 crore were sold to Paradise Group for ₹3.60 crore.

This issue of land allotment was raised in the state assembly by the Congress and resulted in noisy scenes and as many as four disruptions.

Opposition leaders demanded Fadnavis’s resignation for his involvement in the alleged land scam while Fadnavis demanded the resignation of Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, the leader of the Opposition.

“Those who stay in glass houses should not throw stones at others. I do not stay in a glass house. There is no question of my resignation. Instead, you should resign for levelling baseless charges against me,” said Fadnavis to Vikhe-Patil.

Finally, responding to an adjournment motion initiated by Vikhe-Patil, Fadnavis ordered a judicial probe that would investigate not only the allegations raised by Congress, but look into over 200 cases of land allotment in Navi Mumbai, worth Rs 50,000-crore. Many of these were cleared by the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) government.

Earlier, the Question Hour was nearly washed out when the Opposition demanded an adjournment motion. Vikhe-Patil attacked Fadnavis for colluding in the land allotment scam and said “the needle of suspicion” in this issue pointed towards the current chief minister. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan backed Vikhe-Patil and said that without the knowledge of the chief minister, such a deal would not be possible.

Fadnavis stated there was no truth in the allegations and said allotment of project affected persons’ (PAP) land is done by the additional collector as per government guidelines and high court directives. Since the land in question belonged the government – and not City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), as per Congress allegations – the government had every right to allot it to PAPs, said Fadnavis, adding that no file related to the matter had come to him or his office. He also said that 24 acres of land was agricultural and its use had not been converted into residential even though a developer had purchased it.

Targeting Chavan, Fadnavis told the house that during the Congress-NCP regime, 200 farmers had sold their land, worth over Rs 50,000 crore.

In his rebuttal, Nirupam reiterated that the 24 acres sold to Paradise Group did belong to the CIDCO and produced documents to show correspondence in which CIDCO had written to the district collector for possession of the land, citing notification issued by the government in 1971. Nirupam said that as recently as 2014 and 2016, the CIDCO had turned down the collectorates’ proposal of allotting that land to two social organizations, thus proving its possession over the plot. He further claimed that no Congress government had allotted any land to PAPs after the 1971 notification that gave the CIDCO possession of the land. “He [Fadnavis] is lying to misguide the people of the state as no such allotment has taken place during Congress-ruled governments,” said Nirupam.

Fadnavis announced the judicial probe into over 200 cases and said there was “a need for new standard operating procedures” as far as the rehabilitation of PAPs is concerned.

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 01:22 IST