At centre of row, Jaipur plot where Kamala Beniwal put rigorous manual labour

Written by Sweta Dutta | Sweta Dutta | Jaipur | Updated: Aug 9 2014, 17:49pm hrs
AT the centre of the controversy surrounding sacked Mizoram Governor Kamla Beniwal is a 1,516-sq m plot owned by her under a farmers cooperative society in the Rajasthan capital. While serving as the Gujarat Governor, Beniwal in an affidavit in 2011 had stated that as a member of the society she had been putting in 14-16 hours of rigorous manual labour on the agricultural land justifying ownership of the land.

A police investigation and a report prepared by Jaipur Collector Krishna Kunal in May this year had found allegations of land grab and fraud against Beniwal valid, which is said to have formed the basis of her removal.

In 1953, one Kisan Samuhik Krishi Sahkari Samiti Ltd was allotted 384 bighas of land in Kalwar, then on the fringes of Jaipur, at a cost of

Rs 25 per acre for better farming. The plot was given on a 20-year lease with a precondition that the cooperative would have to satisfy the state government of its due functioning. Though the lease expired in 1978, the members of the cooperative continued to hold ownership of the land.

Beniwal, who got into active politics in 1954 and became the first woman minister that year, joined the cooperative in 1970. The original members of the cooperative too were gradually replaced by new members, several of them key politicians and businessmen.

Lawyer A K Jain, who filed a petition in 2012 alleging land grab and fraud against the present 17 owners and Beniwal, alleged, The plot was transferred to one Rajendra Singh and 15 others but over the years they were pushed out and replaced by influential people including Beniwal, who has held several prime postings in the state. When I had filed the petition, Beniwal enjoyed immunity under Article 361 as a Governor and hence we had mentioned her involvement while the accused were the remaining 17 members but now she too is likely to face criminal proceedings.

The other key members include Kumbaram Arya, former Rajasthan revenue minister and state president of Samajwadi Janta Party; his son Vijaypal and grandson Ranveer Singh; Radhakishan Chaudhary, OSD of former Prime Minister Devi Lal and retired joint registrar, Cooperative Department among others.

In October 1999, 221 bighas out of the 384 bighas allotted to the cooperative were earmarked for Kardhani and Prithviraj Nagar residential schemes. Though land stood transferred to the state government in 1978 and the society members had no claim to it, 15 per cent of the developed land was awarded to the society as compensation. Around 209 residential plots were allotted to the 18 members, including Beniwal, that effectively meant 1,516 sq m of land to each of them. The total value of the land in 2012 is estimated at Rs 400 crore.

Jain has alleged in court that Beniwal, who served as revenue minister from 1998-2003 and later as deputy chief minister in 2003, flouted rules to award the compensation. The case is being heard by the metropolitan magistrate in Jaipur and the next hearing is slated for August 27.

Responding to the allegations, Surjaram Meer, vice-president of the cooperative, told The Indian Express, According to the Rajasthan Tenancy Act, 1955, we have got khatedari rights of the plot allotted to us and khatedari rights are held forever. For so many decades we were allowed to keep the land and the government also awarded us 15 per cent compensation against the plot acquired and developed by them. Why suddenly is it being alleged that Kamla Beniwal fraudulently acquired the land We have all the documents supporting our claims of legal ownership.

Meer alleged political vendetta and said, It was only after Kamla Beniwal became Gujarat Governor and locked horns with the then chief minister Narendra Modi over the appointment of a Lokayukta that this issue has been dug up.

Defending Beniwals claims of putting in 14-16 man hours of rigorous manual labour in farming, Meer said, The calculation of these 14-16 man hours was done to quantify our efforts put into the cooperatives land. This does not mean Kamla Beniwal has herself toiled on the farm but she could have got it done by anyone else.