CAG Indicts Deshmukh Over Land Allotment to His Trust

CAG Indicts Deshmukh Over Land Allotment to His Trust
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India in a recent report is learnt to have indicted Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for preferential allotment of a plot in Mumbai to a trust founded by him and holding on to it for four years in breach of conditions.

According to the report yet to be tabled in the Maharashtra legislature, the 23,840 sq m plot in suburban Borivali was allotted to the Manjara Charitable Trust by the government on September 28, 2005, when Deshmukh was state's chief minister, for opening a dental college at an occupancy price of Rs 6.56 crore.

"It was noticed that out of four applicants for the plot, the chief minister approved application of the Manjra charitable trust in preference to the to the other three applicants without assigning any specific reason for the preferential allotment," the report, whose purported contents were given to the media in a CD by the Opposition, said.

The report said that the basic condition while alloting the land, that entire work should be completed within a period of two years so as to commence educational activities, was not included in the agreement.

Though four years elapsed after taking possession of the land, it was not put to use for the intended purpose. In April 2011, the trust requested the collector to alter the purpose of the use of land from dental college to educational activity as it was not in a position to start dental college.

"This reveals that requisitioning of the land was just with an intention to holding on to it. As per ready reckoner of 2006, the market value of the land was rs 30.37 crore. Non mentioning of the mandatory clause that the entire work should be completed within a period of two years, deprived the government to resume back the land and the trust got to retain it by paying merely rs 6.56 cr," the report said.

The contents of the CAG report were made public on a day when Deshmukh was pulled up by the Supreme Court for giving 20 acres of land to film producer Subhash Ghai in 2004 for his film institute bypassing the rules.

"One cannot be treated as blue-eyed boy for which chief minister can bend or bypass rules to give away the land of the state," a division bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad observed while noting it was done for a paltry sum.

The apex court upheld the Bombay High Court order quashing allotment of the land to Ghai's film institute in Filmcity in 2004 when Deshmukh was the chief minister.

The report also speaks of "conflict of interest" in allotment of land to Mumbai Educational Trust, whose founder chairman is former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, after changing the purpose of reservation.

The report says that out of a 91,300 sq m plot in Govardhan taluka in Nashik, 41,300 sq m was initially allotted to the MET after changing the purpose of reservation from mining activity to educational purpose at occupancy price of Rs 1.55 lakh.

Samir Bhujbal, Chhagan's nephew and Lok Sabha MP from Nashik, again applied for allotment of balance land measuring 50,000 sq m for expansion of engineering and technical college which was allotted at Rs 7.53 lakh after changing the purpose of reservation.

"The allotee was nephew of the state PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal from whose department the land was transferred. There was apparent conflict of interest in the transfer and allotment of this land," the report said.

The report also said a plot was given for the purpose of charity to Industries Minister Narayan Rane's Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal, Kankavali, for setting up a community centre at annual lease rent of only Rs 869 for a period of 30 years in 2008.

A building named Sindhudurg Bhavan came up on the land with basement and four floors and the rent of the multi- purpose banquet hall there called Grand Imperial Banquet was Rs 2 lakh per day.

"The constructed building was high profile, catering to the needs of the rich and upper class and not the common man. The community centre was just a cover up," the report said, adding the cost of the land was Rs 6.68 crore.
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