Days before family members bought a three-acre plot in Bhosari near Pune from a private party, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse held a meeting with officials from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and the revenue department at which the compensation to be given to the original owner under the state’s Land Acquisition Act was discussed, government sources have confirmed.
Records reviewed by The Indian Express show that Khadse’s wife, Mandakini, and son-in-law, Dattaram Chaudhari, purchased the land from Abbas Ukani on April 27, 2016 for Rs 3.75 crore. The meeting in Khadse’s office relating to compensation to Ukani was held in the third week of March 2016.
Khadse, when contacted, admitted that he had convened the meeting in March. When asked if this did not amount to conflict of interest, he said: “The original owner had approached with a complaint that he should either be provided due compensation for the land acquisition or an alternate piece of land be allotted to him. He (the owner) is nearly 90 years old and resides in Kolkata. His contention was that he was being deprived of his due right to deal with the land…”
Although the land was earmarked for MIDC’s use in 1968 and the state government published a gazette declaring its intention to acquire this land on November 11, 1971, records show that the plot’s original owner, Ukani, had claimed that he had not got compensation.
Seeking to reclaim the land, Ukani moved the high court last October and also approached the revenue department. While the case is pending, he allegedly sold the land to Khadse’s family in April this year.
Referring to the March meeting, Khadse claimed both the MIDC and officials of the district collector’s office had admitted that compensation had not been paid in the matter. “There are government rulings that state that land acquisition proceedings must be completed within two years or they lapse. In this case, the proceedings were not completed for four decades,” he said.
Stating that those who felt there was conflict of interest were free to go to court, Khadse said that so long as the deal was legally sound, his family and relatives were within their rights as private citizens to purchase the land. “I have not purchased the land.
My wife and son-in-law have,” he said. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Industries Minister Subhash Desai, who belongs to the Shiv Sena, contested Khadse’s claim that MIDC had not acquired the land. “The land has been acquired and is in possession of the MIDC. I wouldn’t know how the land was purchased,”Desai was quoted as saying earlier.
Senior MIDC officials, requesting anonymity, too said “there was enough documentary evidence to suggest that the land was in MIDC’s possession.” Countering this claim, Khadse said, “You will find official documents where the Collector’s office has repeatedly said that the land acquisition had not been completed on my Facebook page.”
Meanwhile, Hemant Gawande, a Pune-based builder who is a “whistleblower” in the case, claimed there was another conflict of interest in the case. “It is the Collector’s office under Khadse’s revenue department that decides the land award and compensation package.
The minister’s kin now hold power of attorney that gives them the power to receive the compensation amount,” he said.
The Indian Express has reviewed this document too.
“The minister’s motive is to corner for himself compensation at enhanced rates for the plot, and he has used his office for this personal gain,” alleged Gawande, adding that he plans to file a complaint of misuse of office and loss to the state exchequer against Khadse at a local police station on Monday.
But Khadse accused Gawande of levelling baseless allegations against him, saying he was trying to settle a score after his office took action against the builder for a dubious land transaction. Gawande denied the allegation.
The MIDC land is valued at Rs 23 crore going by current ready reckoner values. Gawande claimed compensation under the new Land Acquisition Act would be to the tune of Rs 100 crore.
Meanwhile, ethical hacker Manish Bhangale, who had earlier claimed that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim had made phone calls to Khadse, has approached the Bombay High Court seeking a CBI probe in the matter.