Mumbai: Union MoS Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla has been forced to return two plots in Mumbai's Andheri area which were allotted to his firm after a controversy broke out over their allotment to a society co-founded by him to start a school.
The irregularities in allotting the land to Shukla surfaced even as the Congress in Maharashtra is bracing for a political storm over the Adarsh commission report expected to be tabled in the state Assembly next week.
In 2007 Shukla had written a letter to then chief minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh seeking prime land in Andheri to build a school and a playgorund. On Deshmukh's special recommendation one plot measuring 2,821 sq m reserved for a municipal school by the BMC was allotted for just Rs 98,735, when the market value is estimated at Rs 100 crore.
Another 3,534 sq m plot -reserved for a playground - was leased for 15 years to bag films education Society for a paltry Rs 6,309.
The BJP lambasted Shukla by saying that just like the Adarsh case almost overnight clearances and allotment were granted to the BAG Education Society.
BJP leader Kirti Somaiya said, "Shukla's firm was also sanctioned a loan of Rs 5.88 crore by the Central Bank. Interestingly not many details are available of the plan to build the proposed school barring this plan by the firms architect that ear marks land for building swimming pools and squash courts for a club house."
However, Shukla claimed he sent a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on December 4 asking that the plots be taken back. He said the society never actually got possession of the land and it already had been encroached upon. Shukla added that there is nothing wrong with the society being allotted the land.
Shukla defended himself by saying, "I want to make it very clear that so far we haven't got actual possession of the land for 5 years. There have been jhuggi jhopris (slum) and there are still jhuggi jhopris. No activity has been done on the land. Despite that we have written to the Chief Minister to take back the land. There is no irregularity as far as land allotment is concerned. Hundreds of societies have been given land in Maharashtra with same provisions, so there is no irregularity."
"RIMS had entered into an understanding with BAG. Since the land wasn't encroachment free, that's why they backed out," he added when asked that BAG Film Education Society got the plot claiming that it has a JV with RIMS international educational institution, but RIMS later released a statement saying that there was no such agreement.
An NGO had exposed the land deal alleging that the plots which are worth Rs 100 crore were allotted for less than Rs 1 lakh to the society following which the BJP had demanded that the state government initiate an inquiry.
After the revenue department's initial claim that the file related to the land allotment was gutted in the Mantralaya fire resulted in outrage and protests, an embarrassed Chavan, who has positioned himself as tough against corruption, has promised a review of the allotment.