The alleged undervaluation and violations of norms in the allocation of 25 acres of land in Bolgatty Island reclaimed by the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) and leased out to Yusuffali M.A. of the Lulu Group are becoming a national issue, with socio-environmental activist C.R. Neelakantan petitioning six eminent personalities of the country, demanding cancellation of the contract.
The Hindu exposed the Bolgatty land scandal in a series of stories in mid-April.
Neelakantan sent complaints to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Comptroller and Auditor General, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president alleging misuse of powers vested with CPT, alienation of public land for Rs 71 crore that is considerably lower than the market price of about Rs 500 crore, undervaluation, conspiracy for alienating public land for private purposes, and large scale corruption.
While alleging that the contract was signed between the CPT and the developer in an urgent manner, he has demanded taking back its possession so that it can be used for public purposes. He also sought an inquiry into the alleged corruption involved in this deal and wants the culprits to be punished.
A conditional permission to reclaim the land was given by the Coastal Zone Management Authority to fill the land for port-related activities. They had no project or plan at the time of reclaiming. It was an intentional move to violate Coastal Regulation Zone notification and legalise it in the name of public purpose, for meeting private interests, Mr Neelankandan says.
Later, in the name of financial crisis, the approval of Ministry of Shipping was sought to tender eight plots of land belonging to the CPT.
After getting approval from the Ministry of Shipping, CPT issued tender to lease the illegally reclaimed wetland. Only one bidder came forward to accept the tender and that was Yusuffali M.A. of Nattika, Thrissur. Without going for a re-tender, the CPT approved the bid and has leased out the land to Mr Yusuffali, the activist recalled.
Quoting extensively from The Hindu’s news reports, Neelakantan alleged that, the CPT hid the plan of the lessee for building 572 residential units (serviced apartments), which is a prime part of the project. An average residential unit near Bolgatty at Marine Drive costs about Rs 1.5 crore to Rs. 2 crore. So, a residential unit at Bolgatty Island ought to fetch more, he says. , he wrote.