Remember the report on the ‘alternative site’ scam at the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) the government has been squatting on? So, 61 BDA officials were responsible for giving away 90 prime sites ‘illegally’ to businessmen and politicians. The scam cost the BDA Rs 300 crore, a report had revealed. But after months of inaction, the ball has now been moved to the governor’s court, giving the case a new lease of life.
Even after massive irregularities were found by an inquiry committee headed by IAS officer Shashidhar, the report had been gathering dust at the Vidhana Soudha until now. A formal complaint has now been lodged with the governor, along with documents that name officials, bringing fresh trouble for chief minister Siddaramaiah, and the 61 officials.
WHAT ALTERNATIVE SITE?
When BDA acquired land from private parties for a project, it would compensate by providing an ‘alternative site’ of a certain value. The report claimed that 90 plush sites were given away as compensation for acquired lands that were mostly worth pittance compared to the compensation given. In fact, it was alleged that of the 90 sites, 27 sites went to a single individual! And the real beneficiaries were not landowners, but the owners of the General Power of Attorney (GPA).
A person named R Arunachalam got 27 alternative sites. Politicians Hanumanthe Gowda was allotted 16 sites, Manjula got 13 sites, Manikyam got 10, M Munikrishnappa got seven, Sridevi got 7, and Gangahanumakka and Nagendra got 7 sites each, alleged J Ashok Kumar, the petitioner to the governor. In most cases, the allottees got ‘alternative’ lands in plush areas like HSR Layout and Banashankari that were worth several crores in exchange for their own lands that were worth only a few lakhs.
THE ABSURD COMPENSATION
For example, Arunachalam got over 96,000 sq ft land in plush area in exchange for his agricultural land outside Kengeri, measuring 2 acres and 30 guntas. In his case, the cost of land acquired by the government was around Rs 29 lakh, but the compensation given was worth Rs 6.25 crore.
In the case of Hanumathe Gowda and his wife, 16 sites were allotted. In his case, the land acquired cost Rs 26 lakh, but the land he was given was worth Rs 3.20 crore. In case of Manjula, acquired land cost Rs 9.70 lakh, compensation was worth Rs 1.40 crore. In Manikyam’s case, land acquired was worth Rs 1.74 lakh, compensation given by BDA was worth Rs 3.3 crore.
In some cases, even the documents of the original land didn’t exist. And yet they were compensated, Ashok alleged. In some cases, alternative sites were allotted even before bringing them to the BDA committee’s notice. Some files didn’t even have basic details or project costs, he said.
The BDA was supposed to give only a 22 per cent more as compensation in the form of alternative sites. But clearly flouting high court directives, absurdly high compensations were made to favour individuals, Ashok alleged. At the end, though, it was decided that 50 per cent more be given in compensation, this too has not been adhered too, he added.
In some cases the landowners kept mum and allowed BDA to use their lands. Later, the GPA-holders came into the picture and created files to get compensation that didn’t reach the land owners. Between 2012-13 and 2013-15, over 135 sites were given like this, alleged Ashok.
“In most cases, the beneficiaries in the illegal deal have resorted to the General Power of Attorney. They get GPA from the land holding farmers in the belts – mostly outside Bengaluru – where BDA identifies lands for acquisition for various projects.
Then, such politicians and businessmen manage BDA officials and succeed in getting plush and fully developed sites in developed layouts in the city as ‘alternative’ sites in the form of compensation. They pay-off farmers in pittance, but get several crores themselves. In most cases, such allottees are compensated with more than they are eligible,” said J Ashok Kumar, an RTI activist.
WHO ARE THEY?
Several BDA officials are involved in this well-oiled scam machinery. The petition to governor seeking sanction against the chief minister to prosecute him has named 61 of them. The list includes eight secretaries, eight undersecretaries, 12 assistant engineers, 13 surveyors, eight land acquisition officers, three executive engineers, and assistant executive engineers.
“Despite a detailed report, the government has not acted against the officials. It seems the chief minister is protecting them. Hence, the governor’s sanction has been sought with relevant documents to prosecute the chief minister,” Ashok added.
Credits Bangalore Mirror