Farmers whose land was acquired at a meagre Rs. 4 per square yard in South West Delhi way back in 1955 in the name of undertaking planned development have now seized upon the opportunity raised by the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India — on the loss caused to the exchequer by leasing away of some of this very land by Indira Gandhi International Airport concessionaire Delhi International Airports Limited to commercial enterprises — to demand higher compensation.
For the farmers of Mahipalpur, Nangal Dewat and Rangpuri villages near the airport, many of whom have over the last nearly 57 years been fighting legal battles for enhanced compensation, the report was a godsend.
“I was pursuing the land acquisition case and the airport privatisation issue for getting higher compensation for the farmers through the Supreme Court. But when this CAG report came out, I decided to share the documents which had been procured by me from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Delhi government,” said Colonel (retd.) Devender Sehrawat, who had filed applications under the Right to Information Act on these issues.
Col. Sehrawat, who is also secretary of the Delhi Gramin Samaj and co-convener of the Kissan Mahasangh, a federation of farmers' organisations, said the CAG draft report had also noted that the government exchequer had incurred a loss of Rs.24,000 crore due to manipulation in the original agreement and undue benefit worth Rs.1,63,557 were granted to the Delhi International Airports Limited through transfer of land.
Thus, he said, as per the CAG, the loss was around Rs. 34 crore per acre — as 4799 acres of land was transferred to the concessionaire — and this worked out to a rate of nearly Rs.70,000 per square yard. However, Col. Sehrawat said the farmers had only been paid a fraction of this for their land.
With 13 hotel projects envisioned on the airport land, the Kissan Mahasangh is now viewing the land transfer deal as a bonanza for the concessionaire and has urged the Civil Aviation Ministry to adequately compensate the farmers for their land and initiate resettlement and rehabilitation measures.
Col. Sehrawat, who had gathered the information to seek higher compensation for the farmers through the Supreme Court, decided to come out with the information in hand following the CAG report.
As per the information accessed by him — and copies of which are with The Hindu — under the Operation, Management Development Agreement (OMDA) between DIAL and the Airports Authority of India, the concessionaire was allotted 4,799 acres on Rs.100 annual lease rent for 60 years.
Even for commercial use, 190 acres were allowed to DIAL at a price of Rs.31 lakh while in the original contract, out of the total of 4,799 acres, only 240 acres or 5 per cent was earmarked for commercial use.
The transfer of land to the airport concessionaire took place after the matter of land use was considered by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) in June 2005.
The EGoM had then directed the Civil Aviation Ministry to take the opinion of the Attorney-General on “use of airport land and limit on commercial use of land at airport complex by the JVC [joint venture company]” and legality of permitting the proposed concessionaire to develop the airport for commercial uses unrelated to the airport under the provisions of the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994.
Giving his opinion on the issue on June 17, 2005, the then Attorney-General Milon K. Banerji, had said: “It would not be lawfully permissible for the AAI to grant a lease to any person in respect of any airport property for the purposes of commercial activities listed in Schedule 19 of the draft OMDA like building of golf courses, business parks, hi-tech parks, commercial offices, leisure facilities, commercial arcades, sports complexes, shopping complexes and convention centres etc. unconnected with the scope of airport development and management, including provision of passenger facilities and amenities.”
He had further noted that “if it was considered necessary to permit lease of land to the concessionaire for undertaking commercial activities that go beyond the provision of passenger facilities at the airport, then it must be done only after an amendment was made to the AAI Act, 1994.”
The EGoM had accordingly decided in its meeting held on June 22, 2005, that all commercial activities unrelated to the airport included in Schedule 19 of the draft OMDA be omitted from the final bid document. Thereafter two major Indian real estate firms — DLF Limited and Hiranandani Properties — who had initially shown considerable interest in the proposed airport modernisation projects withdrew from the bidding process.
But the decision on the transfer of land for commercial activities was later reversed by the Civil Aviation Ministry to the advantage of the concessionaire.