Maharashtra sold Rs 100 crore plot to Rajiv Shukla’s firm for under a lakh

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 29 November 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: A 2,821-sq-m governmentowned plot in Andheri, reserved for a primary school, was sold to BAG Films Education Society (BFES) for a paltry Rs 98,735 in 2008, recently released documents have revealed. In addition to this, the papers reveal, a 3,534.70 sq m plot adjacent to the first one, reserved for a playground, was allotted to BFES on a 15-year lease for just Rs 6,309.

A conservative estimate pegs the current market value of the two plots - located near Andheri's Country Club - at a staggering Rs 100 crore, and several activists have raised questions over their allotment.

Anuradha Prasad is the chairperson of the society, while her husband, Member of Parliament Rajeev Shukla, was secretary when the society applied for the plots way back in 2007. The state revenue department accepted the request and allotted the two plots to BFES in September 2008.

Ajit Deshpande from Shukla's office said, "When the application was made in 2007, Rajiv Shukla was secretary of BAG Films Education Society. He stepped down eight days later. The application was cleared by the government in 2008."

When allotting the plots, the government calculated their value based on 1976 rates, or Rs 140 a square metre. For the first plot, the state charged BFES only 25 per cent of this value, or Rs 98,735, while making it clear that the land could be only be used for a primary school.

The second plot, reserved for a playground, was given to BFES on a 15-year lease on the same day. Its lease amount was pegged at 10 per cent of the land's value in 1976, or Rs 6,309.

Why the state used 1976 rates - and offered huge discounts on top of this -remains a mystery. None of the government officials Mirror spoke to were able to justify this.

The documents pertaining to the allotments recently became public when the state started evicting the residents of several shanties on the two plots. Of the evicted residents of the 300-odd shanties, only 29 were found to be legal occupants and therefore eligible for rehabilitation.

Residents of 27 shanties, however, have refused to move out, and their cases are being heard in various courts.

Several activists, who have now procured all the documents pertaining to the allotments, have raised serious objections. "It is obvious that the plot went to a particular institution because of the people involved in it. What is astounding is that allotment was done as per 1976 rates. Moreover, if the state was so keen on starting a school there, they should have invited reputed institutions with several years of experience.

The allotment is nothing but a scam and we have already urged the district collector and chief minister's office to conduct a thorough inquiry. Until the inquiry is completed, the allotments should stand cancelled," said Ashoke Pandit, convenor of Save Open Spaces, an NGO.

Anuradha Prasad, however, denied any foul play in the allotments, and maintained that both plots would be used for their intended purposes - a primary school and a playground. "The rates were calculated by the government and we paid the sum that was expected from us. It is for the government to decide the value of the plot," she said. She added that her society runs a school in Noida for 1,000 children and has experience in running such institutions. "If anything we have not been able to start the school for the past five years due to encroachments on the plot. We are still at it," she said.

Officials at the suburban collector's office explained that after the plot was allotted to the society, they started issuing notices to residents of the shanties. Of the many shanty-dwellers, only 29 were found to be eligible for alternative accommodation.

"Since the plot was given on ownership basis to the society, BFES was asked to deposit money for rehabilitation. They paid Rs 6.80 lakh per eligible slum dweller. The illegal ones have been evicted and only 27 are left. Their cases are pending in various courts," said a senior official at the collector's office.

Sanjay Deshmukh, suburban collector, told Mirror, "The allotment of such plots is done at the state level by the revenue and finance departments. My office only implements the order they give. However, I will look into the case."

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