Corrupt Government Gave Away Land to Cronies
Land Scandal in India
This news report comes from the Indo-Asian News Service.
Groups linked to ruling party get prime land at below-market pricesHindu groups linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have secured prime land at throwaway prices in the Indian capital, a newspaper reported, but the BJP denied any wrongdoing.
In a front-page expose, The Indian Express said several of these groups managed to get land in prized locations, particularly after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power for a third time in 1999 heading a coalition government.
The beneficiaries include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has been blamed for the sectarian violence in Gujarat that killed some 1,000 people, and the Samarth Siksha Samiti, a little-known affiliate of Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of Vajpayee's BJP.
The Express said that the urban development ministry, headed by BJP leader Ananth Kumar, had worked overtime to "give away prime plots in the heart of the nation's capital to the RSS, VHP and affiliates of the Sangh Parivar (RSS family). All at an average price of less than one-tenth of the market rate!"
The BJP defended the corrupt allotment of prime plots at cheap rates. BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS: "The report does not point to any illegality or violation of norms."
The Express report comes just two weeks after the mass-circulation daily exposed favouritism and corruption in the allotment of thousands of gas stations and cooking gas and kerosene vendorships across the country.
That report detailed that most gas stations went to families and relatives of leaders of the BJP and its allies. Following a national outcry, the prime minister cancelled all gas stations given away since January 2000.
The new exposť quoted records of the Land and Development Office. The newspaper's reporters visited the allotted sites, many of which are still vacant, to confirm the allotments.
The VHP was given 3,753 sq. m. in Sector 6 of R.K. Puram neighbourhood in New Delhi in July 1999. While the market rate in the area is 100,000 rupees per square yard, the VHP got the land for just 1,818 rupees per square yard, the newspaper said.
Other lands given away at scandalously low prices include a hilly 1.57-acre plot in the upscale Vasant Vihar area in south Delhi, which is home to many diplomats and industrialists, and 3.37 acres on the fast-track Meharauli-Badarpur road.
While the market rate at Vasant Vihar is 80,000 rupees per square yard, the Samiti paid just 1,818 per square yard, the Express report said.
Numerous other cases were cited in the report. Even a front for RSS' youth wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad bagged 1,428 square meters of land right next to the New Delhi Railway Station.
Urban Development Minister Ananth Kumar also denied that any rules were violated in the allotment of prime land. "The (land was) allotted according to procedure," Kumar told the newspaper. But his next statement implies guilt: "There is an elaborate procedure. Rates are pre-determined in consultation with the ministry of finance."
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