Public Eye: Isn't this loot in the name of the poor?

DARK FOREBODING? Genuine members wait endlessly across the city for house building cooperative societies to allot them at least a 600 sq ft plot. File Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.  

House building cooperative societies (HBCSs) have been in the news ever since Lokayukta Shivaraj V. Patil's exit following reports about his alleged illegal acquisition of two large plots of land from such cooperatives appeared in the media. But a look at how HBCSs have been operating in the city for over 30 years makes these reports seem like a narrow beam of light into a pest-infested, musty old room full of dark secrets.

Initially, it was the practice that the State Government acquired agricultural land in favour of HBCSs. In 1984, farmers were complaining that there was a big racket behind these acquisitions and that corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, real estate agents and members of the judiciary were allegedly collaborating in the scam.

The G.V.K. Rao committee of inquiry, set up to look into these allegations, submitted its report in 1988, terming most HBCSs in the city “fraudulent” and “fictitious” entities that had allotted plots to non-members. Subsequently, the High Court quashed the allotment of land, acquired by the Government, to several HBCSs. When the Supreme Court too upheld the judgment, an embarrassed State Government was forced to stop acquiring lands on behalf of the societies.

World over, cooperatives have been formed, most often with government support, to help the poor and marginalised pool their resources and compete against powerful market monopolies. In Karnataka too, according to the Directorate of Cooperative Audit, the State Government has provided not just land but also share capital, loans, grants and subsidies to the cooperative institutions since the early 1900s.

A Supreme Court ruling on November 15, 2010 observed that HBCSs are meant for “the poor and the needy”.

At the Vyalikaval House Building Society, where Mr. Shivaraj Patil's wife had been allotted a 4,012 sq ft plot, the neighbours are anything but “poor and needy” of government aid.

Even as genuine members wait endlessly across the city for HBCSs to allot them at least a 600 sq ft, none other than the sons and son-in-law of the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa own a 25,000 sq ft property here.

That they also allegedly encroached upon a main road, in the process causing the exchequer a loss of Rs. 24.5 crore, is a matter pending before the Lokayukta Court.

Curiously, the swathes of land for the Vyalikaval Society were acquired for “public purpose” by the Revenue Department.

But a visit to the layouts developed by it shows luxury apartments and palatial villas dotting the landscape.

These Elysian neighbourhoods, according to documents available with The Hindu, comprise politicians and their fixers, film stars and even the son of a former President.

Why, a simple Internet search throws up dozens of developers hawking plots and apartments in the city's 308 HBCSs that together own more land than the BDA and the Karnataka Housing Board do.

In fact, it is common knowledge that plots in these societies are some of the most expensive real estate in the city. The irony, perhaps even hopelessness, of the situation hits home in the observations of the July 2007 A.T. Ramaswamy Joint Legislature Committee report on encroachments in the city.

The report says: “Of the long list of erring HBCSs, the most notorious is the Judicial Employees Cooperative HBCS. This society has created an all-India record for being a ‘Mother of Illegalities', unleashing a tsunami of scandals. Thus, the Judicial Employees Cooperative HBCS, has become a cesspool of corruption and lawlessness.”

The report goes on to indict 84 judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court, including Mr. Shivaraj Patil, for allegedly procuring sites illegally.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 11:14:41 PM |

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