Thursday, December 9, 2010

MIHAN Saga-Martyrs in the Name of Development

MIHAN Saga-Martyrs in the Name of Development

Victims of First City’s exploitation ask for higher compensation of
 at least Rs. 1 crore per acre

By Manish Soni

He is a martyr in the name of development. He sacrificed his life’s sole possession -- a plot of agricultural land of 2.5 hectares -- on the altar of urban growth. Two of his brothers, too, followed him, for a paltry sum of Rs. 3 lakh per hectare.
And on the same piece of land, today, Ms. Reatox Builders and Developers Pvt Ltd is constructing a project of luxurious housing -- First City Mihan -- to make hundreds of crores of rupees in “obscene profits” (to quote Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in the context of land deals in general).
This is development!
For 78-year-old Bhagwan Balaji Dahane, however, life now is a long story of personal devastation. As he passes the First City project every day, he looks forlornly at the structures towering over the landscape, looks down with misty eyes, and proceeds home. For the present, the Dahane family farms on another 10-acre land in CIDCO possession. However, they all know very well that in a short while from now, that farm, too, would slip into the hands of Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), surely to be handed over to some developer. The family knows, utter poverty stares them in the face. For, they have understood by now, the money they will have after the transaction may not last for their lifetime.
This is development’s sad face. For, Bhagwan Balaji Dahane is not alone. There are many like him -- having been left high and dry by the so-called quest of urban development, having been left with paltry sums of money for their precious possessions, having been left to make do within that small sum for whole life while ‘developers’ build their own palatial mansions for mind-boggling costs.
Here is Sheshrao Mahakalkar. He, too, owned an ancestral land of 1.5 hectares in village Khapri on Wardha Road. His family was happy to earn about Rs. 3-4 lakhs per year from farming. Today, however, Sheshrao makes about Rs. 50,000 per year (that is, about Rs. 4000/- per month). Sheshrao now works as a water-tanker driver with a private company.
For Bhagwan or Sheshreao -- and also hundreds of other such farmers -- development means losing their small plots of land in favour of those urban elites who would never shed even a crocodile tear for them.
They will create First City MIHAN on 31 acres of land (Survey Numbers 9, 10, 12, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 40, 47, 48, 49 and 50 in Mouza Khapri), a sprawling ‘world-class integrated residential township with state-of-the-art lifestyle’ having 11 impressive 13-storey residential towers with 1542 flats. Each flat of this project is being targeted to fetch a whopping Rs 25,00,000 to Rs 70,00,000.
Real owners of that land -- the Bhagwans and the Sheshraos -- will keep looking at their devastated lives through these huge structures, having got paltry sums in compensation from Maharashtra Government.
Bhagwan Dahane is a suffering from various diseases. And the family has around Rs. 11 lakh from the sale of their 2.52-hectare land on Survey Numbers 20, 21 and 22. Shesrao Mahakalkar’s family got a compensation of only Rs 5.50 lakh for its ancestral land 1.5 hectares at Survey Number 49 and 50.
Their sense of deprivation knows no bounds. MADC has taken their lands away. The developer is making huge money from that project. But they are bereft, hugh and dry. They, therefore, demand an additional compensation upto Rs 50 lakh per acre so that they can live their future life comfortably.
The Government has acquired 6.12 hectares of land of Ushabai Rathod at Rs 31.67 lakh, 3.78 hectares of land of Satish Rathod at Rs 17.46 lakh, 2 hectares of land of Daulat Mashram at Rs 8.56 lakh, 3.69 hectares of land of Govinda Sontakke at Rs 19.34 lakh, 1.72 hectares of land of Gyandeshwar Sontakke at Rs 5.85 lakh, 0.36 hectares of land Leheji Masram at Rs 1.27 lakh, 0.74 hectares of land of Fakira Masram at of Rs 2.52 lakh, 0.58 hectares of land of Rodba Sayam at Rs 2 lakh, 2.18 hectares of land of Yamuna Yadavrao Dandekar at Rs 6.71 lakh, 0.97 hectares of land of Kamlabai Rambhau Zade at Rs 3 lakh and 1.5 hectares of land of Mahakalkar family at Rs 5.50 lakh.
All these have a simple question: Why did the MADC come in? Why were they not allowed to sell their land directly to the builders and developers? For, in that case, they would have got a more rational compensation, say of at least Rs. 1 crore per acre. Social worker Baba Dawre, who has been representing farmers for all these years, alleges that the MADC is involved in land grabbing for the benefit of builders and developers and at the cost of genuine welfare of the farmers.

Open letter to the Government of Maharashtra, Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Ministers, Legislators, and Officials

* A blatant loot of farmers’ precious land is going on by vested interests that are aiming to make hundreds of crores of rupees by  selling the same to non-SEZ buyers at shockingly high cost

** What is strange, political leaders in power and in Opposition have kept quiet about the land grab scandal.
***Why this silence?We are asking these questions as People’s Paper
Honourable friends,

IT is after a deep thought that we have opted to write this open letter to highlight a major issue and seek your indulgence in correcting a huge wrong being perpetrated in Nagpur by way of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) promoted by Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC). If we fail to act fast, if we do not step in to stop the loot that has been going for a long time in the name of development, a mega scandal will explode here. The purpose of this letter is to bring to the notice of one and all how a scandal is brewing here by way of the SEZ that is being touted as Nagpur’s signature project on Wardha Road.
At the outset, we must thank people of this region for giving us unflinching support in our relentless campaign against a massive land grab scandal at the cost of defenceless farmers who have been made to sell their precious lands for a pittance for the uncouth benefit of builders. We must thank the people for understanding the importance of our efforts.
But we must also make this appeal to the leading lights of Maharashtra Government, Legislators and bureaucrats to understand the ugly reality in the SEZ land grab scandal and act fast to stop the loot.
A detailed study of the project has led us to believe that under the pretext of developing SEZ, a blatant loot is going on of farmers’ precious land by vested interests that are aiming to make hundreds of crores of rupees after developing the property and selling the same to interested buyers at shockingly high cost. In the process, farmers are left high and dry with only a few pennies in their pockets, by violating the law that governs Special Economic Zones.
‘The Hitavada’ is not at all against development. On the contrary, we have supported all genuine developmental activities wholeheartedly. Yet, the happenings in Nagpur do not allow our conscience to keep quiet when a loot is going on.
Our concern is simple: Development cannot take place by exploiting the poor and the defenceless farmers. For example, farmer Bhagwan Dahane was made to sell his land for a paltry sum of Rs. 3 lakh per hectare (that is, around Rs. 1.5 lakh per acre) to MADC, which then sold the same to prospective builders -- Ms. Reatox Builders and Developers Pvt. Ltd -- for around Rs. 70 lakhs per acre. Of course, let us not overlook the fact that just a few kilometers away, a celebrated family of Nagpur had sold its agricultural land to a builder for a whopping Rs. 2.5 crore per acre around the same time. Obviously, honourable friends, the MADC was virtually giving away farmers’ land for a small change (Rs. 70 lakh per acre against Rs. 2.5 crore).
This was where the loot began. If the farmers had sold their land directly to developers, they would have got a market price. But then, the MADC threw on their faces small change and gave their land to developers for ruthless exploitation.
This land grab scandal is taking place for the past some years in a near-total violation of the SEZ Act. A Special Economic Zone is a niche concept. The zone is carved out for special purpose. Outsiders are not allowed into it. It also has its own housing policy. Houses are constructed solely for the people employed in enterprises in the SEZ, and outsiders are not allowed to own property in the SEZ colonies.
Yet, the MADC gave Ms. Reatox Builders and Developers Pvt Ltd permission to sell flats to non-SEZ persons. In one affidavit, it said, such a sale is not permitted. But through a letter to Reatox, Mr. R.C. Sinha, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of MADC, granted Reatox the permission to sell the flats to anybody anywhere!
The nexus is obvious here: The law does not permit, but Mr. Sinha does. Is he above law? But he is smart. He refused to take the blame to himself. He said, in effect, all decisions belong to the Board of Directors of the MADC of which the Chief Minister (then Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh) is the ex-officio Chairperson. So, empowered by Mr. Sinha, ‘First City’ -- the Reatox project -- starts an advertising blitz trying to sell flats to non-SEZ persons.
Of course, the SEZ is a failure. Except a few enterprises (like Satyam), there have been no takers. Since its inception, the SEZ has not attracted genuine investment. Some enterprises came, got land, and vainished into thin air. Naturally, as one may assume correctly, after some time, the land will go to builders to develop townships where ‘outsiders’ will come in through the back door.
This is the land grab scandal in the offing. ‘The Hitavada’ has learnt that a few more builders, too, are moving in in due course. Thus, land grab and loot will continue with the blessings of Mr. R.C. Sinha. Reatox is only a test case.
Yet, Mr. Sinha, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of MADC, does not seem bothered. He has made all sorts of concessions to Ms. Reatox to make its work easy. He has granted it the “permission” to sell flats to non-SEZ persons (which is illegal). He has given Reatox additional plots of land under this or that pretext (which is perplexing, to say the least). He has given the developer loans to complete the project (which, too, is perplexing). He has given banks the MADC guarantee as a protection against non-repayment of loan!...
‘The Hitavada’ has been highlighting all these aspects of the patently illegal activities in SEZ. After investigations, we have come to believe that MADC super boss Mr. R.C. Sinha is granting special favours to Reatox even by violating legal provisions, rules and regulations. And this is happening at the cost of poor farmers who have been left with no alternative but to sell their lands for pittance to developers who are out to make obscene profits from the business.
It is patently illegal to acquire farmers’ land for SEZ and give it to private builders and developers.
Our concern is the welfare of the farmers who have lost their precious lands. Our concern is about not allowing cruel commercial exploitation of the farmers’ lands, which tantamounts to official loot. Our concern is for the right brand of development.
Our concern is also as to why the State Government is in a deep slumber still. For, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister is the Ex-Officio Chairperson of the MADC. His name is involved in this project with countless violations of rules. Why has not he woken up still?
No law of the land can allow such a loot. India has often debated the brand of development it must adopt. Mahatma Gandhi had said, in effect, development is a process that provides for the need of the common people, and not the greed of the select few. In SEZ and First City, the Mahatma’s thinking has been thrown out of the window.
Just on December 7, 2010, Neera Yadav, former Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, was sent to serve a four-year prison term for involvement in illegal land allotment. The beneficiary of the scandal, one Ashok Chaturvedi, too, has been sentenced to a jail term.
If this can happen in Uttar Pradesh, then why can’t Maharashtra take steps to stop the loot in the name of development?
At SEZ, most things have been done under the cover of rules. Yet, most rules have been twisted out of shape to benefit a handful few. Documentary evidence is available not in the secret files of the MADC but on the websites of various governmental agencies. All we have done is to pick up those points and interpret those to expose the wrong.
The Government of Maharashtra is already engaged in a huge cleansing exercise. There is a need to include Nagpur’s SEZ in that cleansing exercise immediately.
What is strange, political leaders of parties in power and in Opposition have kept quiet about the land grab scandal in Nagpur. What is the reason of their silence?
We are asking these questions as People’s Paper, their voice. It is time the Government conducted a thorough probe into the SEZ land grab affair and considered possibilities of launching criminal proceedings against the guilty.
Yours sincerely,
Vijay Phanshikar,


  1. Ha ha ha ha ha !!!!
    So many twisted facts, so many assumptions, so many hypotheses and so many urelated irrelevant things irresponsibly written together.
    And you call yourself editor of an oldest newspaer of Nagpur.
    Good joke indeed.

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