Special Correspondent

Bangalore: Janata Dal (United) State president B. Somashekar on Saturday alleged that several Ministers and MLAs of the ruling coalition were active in the real-estate business and demanded an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge into land transactions in the State since 1991.

Mr. Somashekar told presspersons here that the inquiry should include a social audit to find out if development projects, for which large tracts of farmland were acquired, had helped the people and triggered development.

He also accused the Congress of having facilitated the use of farmland for real-estate purposes when it was in power.

He claimed that a large extent of land had been handed over to bogus information technology companies by the Congress in 2001. Subsequent governments had continued the practice.

He said the bogus companies, which got farmland at throwaway prices for industrial purposes, later sold it at exorbitant prices.

Citing an example, Mr. Somashekar said a company, Primal Projects, was allotted about 25 acres in 2004 for an IT park. While the market value of the land was around Rs. 80 lakh an acre at that time, farmers had been given Rs. 9.5 lakh an acre. The company was allocated 30 more acres subsequently. The Government had incurred a loss of about Rs. 10 crore in terms of various exemptions given to the company such as sales tax exemption. Similarly, farmers had incurred a loss of Rs. 56 crore when the market value of their land was considered.

Mr. Somashekar said it would have been possible to curb the real-estate lobby if the ceiling on landholding had not been removed by the Janata Dal government headed by H.D. Deve Gowda in 1995.

He demanded that the Karnataka Land Reforms Act be further amended to reintroduce the ceiling on maximum landholding by individuals, firms and trusts.