Fails to initiate action on government directive for a CID probe into the illegal denotification of 720 acres

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), which has been tainted by several scams in the last two years, appears reluctant to initiate a probe into yet another one, involving Rs. 180 crore at the very least.

The BDA has not yet acted on a June 8, 2012 missive from the Principal Secretary of the Urban Development Department directing it to file a complaint and initiate a CID probe into the illegal denotification of 720 acres for acquisition to form the Shivaram Karanth Layout. But since then, the BDA returned at least 720 acres to a select group of land owners in north Bangalore without any explanation. These owners enjoyed a huge appreciation in their land value on account of the proposed BDA layout that was coming up nearby.

The guidance value of the denotified land (fixed by the government) ranges between Rs. 25 lakh and 50 lakh per acre. Even at Rs. 25 lakh an acre, it adds up to Rs. 180 crore.

Several of those who were returned the land through the denotification have gone on to build multi-storey buildings and carve out mini-residential layouts in the area. And surprisingly, documents with this newspaper show, the plans for these new structures were also approved by the BDA.

In addition to being in violation of various sections of the Land Acquisition Act and the BDA Act, whistleblowers have alleged that the denotification was executed to favour builders and real estate agents in exchange for kickbacks.

Furore in the Assembly

Media reports, exposing the scam, had triggered a furore in the Assembly on March 28 with Opposition leaders demanding an explanation from Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda who holds the BDA portfolio. A cornered Chief Minister immediately announced a CID probe and his statement was duly recorded in the House proceedings.

But there was no follow-up on Mr. Gowda’s announcement and the media once again reported the inaction in the last week of May following which the Principal Secretary to the Urban Development Department wrote to the BDA Commissioner on June 8 asking him to file an FIR with the jurisdictional police to pave the way for a CID probe.

Project going ahead

While the probe has gone nowhere, the BDA is going ahead with the land acquisition as though nothing ever happened. On May 22, the BDA’s governing board passed a resolution to complete the acquisition of land for the layout. A proposal was sent to the government for approval of the final notification.

And sure enough, the 720 acres that had been denotified were missing from the proposal without as much as an explanation.

When The Hindu had sought details of the May 22 meeting from senior officials, including the then BDA Commissioner Bharatlal Meena, they said no decision was taken on the Shivaram Karanth Layout.

In fact, BDA’s May 23 press release said no resolution was passed by the board regarding the Shivaram Karanth Layout. The resolution copy of that meeting, which is with The Hindu, tells another tale.

Asked to comment, BDA Commissioner Pradeep Singh Kharola said the alleged irregularities occurred during his predecessor’s tenure. “But I will investigate the matter,” he said.

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