Office-bearers of the BEML Employees’ Housing Cooperative Society, who were at the centre of a recent controversy over irregular plot allotments, appear to be involved in another Rs. 500-crore land scam.
In what has been a season of land scams, this one stands out for the ingenuity with which the system was once again exploited by the society’s president J. Munnagappa and the former vice-president H.S. Kumar.
They posed as farmers and claimed that they lost 100 acres of land during the formation of the Arkavathy Layout by the Bangalore Development Authority, and received compensatory plots in the layout that are estimated to be worth Rs. 500 crore. The compensatory residential plots allotted to them are situated in the vicinity of the Bengaluru International Airport.
On their part, officials of the BDA failed to scrutinise Mr. Kumar and Mr. Munnagappa’s claims, although they could have done it by checking the records of the land for which the claims for compensation were raised. The BEML officials “invested” only Rs. 20 crore to secure the illegal compensation from the BDA.
How they pulled it off
Documents provided to The Hindu by the former Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) councillor K.N. Chakrapani show the way Mr. Kumar and Mr. Munnagappa staked their claims for compensation.
On February 23, 2004, the BDA issued final notification for 100 acres in Hennur, Gedlahalli, Tannisandra and Byrathi Khane villages.
Soon after the final notification orders were issued, Mr. Munnagappa and Mr. Kumar purchased land from the farmers in violation of Sections 3 and 4 of The Karnataka Land (Restriction on Transfer) Act, 1991, which stipulate that nobody shall sell, mortgage, gift or lease land that has been acquired or notified for acquisition by the government.
Documents of transfer between the original landholders and the two society officials show that the operation was conducted between March 2004 and April 2005, and cost Mr. Kumar and Mr. Munnagappa Rs. 20 crore.
After lying low for nearly seven years, they raised a claim for compensation before the BDA posing as farmers and land losers. For each acre of the 100 acres that they purchased illegally, the BDA gave them plots adding up to 9,583 sq ft.
One such allotment deed registered on April 17, 2012 states that Mr. Munnagappa is a land loser and is being compensated as per the land-in-exchange-for-land policy. (This policy was instituted to make land losers stakeholders in development.)
The land allotted to the two society officials as compensation by the BDA is valued at Rs. 500 crore, at Rs. 5,000 per sq ft. On the other hand, the real land owners got only between Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh per acre from Mr. Kumar and Mr. Munnagappa.
Rs. 100 as stamp duty
What is more, Mr. Munnagappa and Mr. Kumar benefited from the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s “pro-farmer” policy, under which they were exempted from playing the full stamp duty for the land given as compensation. The allotment deeds show that they paid only Rs. 100 as stamp duty per plot.
Asked to respond, Mr. Kumar initially said that he was acting on the orders of his superiors at BEML. Mr. Munnagappa refused to react.
BDA Commissioner Pradeep Singh Kharola did not respond to repeated phone calls and text messages seeking an explanation.
Terming the scam “daylight robbery”, Mr. Chakrapani has demanded that the State government order a judicial inquiry into the alleged illegalities in the Arkavathy Layout project.