“Journalists are the most pampered set of people in this state,” a former officer of Madhya Pradesh’s revenue department told us in March, when we were reporting for the June cover story of this magazine.
The story focussed primarily on how, in 2007, a residential cooperative society of acting and retired judges leased land at a prime location in Bhopal at an unthinkably low rate—so low that the lease was almost a gift. Among the society’s members was Chandresh Bhushan, a retired high court judge who was later appointed to head a Special Investigation Team looking into the Vyapam scam. The exceptional discount—pricing the land at just Rs 60 per square foot, or about Rs 600 per square metre—had required the approval of the Madhya Pradesh cabinet, chaired by the state’s chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
Since then, two more cooperative societies had been leased land at that same price—both formed by journalists working in the state. As in the case of the judges’ cooperative, these transactions were cleared by the cabinet, in August 2008. The Rajdhani Patrakar Grih Nirman Sahkari Samiti was allotted 11.6 acres close to Bhopal’s airport, and the Abhivyakti Grih Nirman Sahkari Samiti was given 6.3 acres in the Bawadia Kalan area. (At the time, the revenue department’s stipulated price for residential land in Bawadia Kalan was Rs 3,000 per square metre.)