Fadnavis government accused of irregularities in land leased to trust affiliated to Tamil Nadu governor

04 August 2020
(left to right) Chandrashekhar Bawankule, the former energy minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, the state's former chief minister, and Banwarilal Purohit, the governor of Tamil Nadu, at the Ramdev Baba Engineering College in Nagpur, in September 2016. Fadnavis and Bawankule have been accused of committing irregularities in leasing government land to the Nagpur chapter of the education trust, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which is run by Purohit.
PTI
(left to right) Chandrashekhar Bawankule, the former energy minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, the state's former chief minister, and Banwarilal Purohit, the governor of Tamil Nadu, at the Ramdev Baba Engineering College in Nagpur, in September 2016. Fadnavis and Bawankule have been accused of committing irregularities in leasing government land to the Nagpur chapter of the education trust, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which is run by Purohit.
PTI

Land-revenue records of a ten-acre plot in Nagpur’s Khaparkheda village, which was leased to a trust linked to Banwarilal Purohit, a veteran Maharashtra leader, disclose irregularities, according to a criminal complaint filed by the advocate Satish Uke. The Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited, commonly known as Mahagenco, leased the land to an education trust, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, in November 2015. The state-run company had originally acquired the Khaparkheda plot—located in Koradi village, north of Nagpur—to develop the Koradi Thermal Power Station. On 9 July, Uke filed a complaint at the Koradi police station accusing Devendra Fadnavis, a former chief minister, of facilitating the encroachment of the Khaparkheda land by illegally leasing it to Purohit’s education trust.

Purohit has been the governor of Tamil Nadu since October 2017, after serving as Assam’s governor for a little over a year, and is a three-time member of parliament from Nagpur in the 1980s and 1990s—twice from the Congress and once from the Bharatiya Janata Party. He switched to the BJP in 1991 after the Congress ousted him for participating in the Ayodhya kar seva—the movement to build a temple at the site of the Babri Masjid. Purohit is a national trustee and the vice president of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and also serves as the chairperson of the organisation’s Nagpur Kendra—its Nagpur unit.

According to Uke’s complaint, Fadnavis committed irregularities in order to lease the plot to Purohit by failing to follow the legal procedure governing land transfer. The complaint also emphasised that land records continued to identify the ten-acre plot as a lake. Uke added that it was allotted to the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, which was subsequently trifurcated into three entities, and ownership of the Khaparkheda plot fell to Mahagenco for the purpose of power generation. Uke alleged that Fadnavis, Purohit and Chandrashekhar Bawankule—the state’s energy minister at the time—were criminally liable for a conspiracy to usurp the lake, originally meant for allied development plans of the power plant.

The land-revenue record of the plot shows that the land was transferred to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan on 3 November 2015 on a 30-year lease. The lease deed, annexed to Uke’s complaint, reveals that Mahagenco and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan agreed to establish a school at the Koradi plot. As per the lease deed, the school would provide preference in admission to students from the families of those employed at the three companies that previously formed the Maharashtra State Electricity Board. The deed further stated that “the Kendra Committee of Nagpur Kendra, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, shall vest with complete control and power to manage all the affairs of the school.” The deed also noted that the Bhavan would pay Rs 20 lakh per year to Mahagenco as rent for the land, and that the lease period of thirty years could be extended for a further period of sixty years.

Uke’s complaint sought the registration of a first-information report against the trio. He claimed that Fadnavis, Purohit and Bawankule had an eye on the plot ever since they came to power in the state in 2014. “The lake was made to disappear and a plan was prepared to construct an expensive private school run by Banwarilal Purohit’s trust and executed this plan through a criminal conspiracy,” Uke wrote in his complaint. “This lake was meant for a power generation centre,” he added.

Aathira Konikkara is a reporting fellow at The Caravan.

Keywords: Devendra Fadvanis Nagpur Maharashtra Satish Uke
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