with love to indore

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Somethings never change

like land Mafia in Indore.

I just cam across this old article in India today. The only collector of Indore who took head on with Land Mafia was Manoj Shrivastav and since last five years he has been shunted as publicity head of Madhya Pradesh government publication.

IDA president during congress time i.e. Kripashankar Shukla and Mahesj Joshi both contested elections an became congress president also.Similar story is being repeated with Madhu Verma of BJP.
Interestingly actors have changed now.Those who used to accuse others of land grabbing (like state IT minister) are now accused to have made crores in such deals themselves.

It seems national leadership of BJP is tolerating all this stuff just for sake of some funds or loksabha election!!! Anyways it is a pathetic state to be

Dubious Deals

Two land-related murders prove that Indore is fast gaining the gangland image of Mumbai.

By Bharat Desai

The people of Indore love to call their city 'Mini Mumbai' because of its enterprising spirit and bustling nature. But the comparison is proving true in more ways than one. The business transacted in the city may not match the volumes of the western metropolis, but Indore is certainly acquiring the gangland image of its more illustrious cousin, as the recent murders of two municipal corporators have proved. These land-related murders, within a span of one week, came on the heels of a much-publicised public-interest petition in the high court which had exposed the disconcertingly long reach of the city's land mafia, comprising politicians, bureaucrats and construction barons.

It is fair knowledge in the city that every conceivable rule relating to building activity has been violated by the powerful clique of politicians and builders and the connections reach up to the top in the state administration. But it was BJP corporator Rajesh Joshi's murder -- his neck was slit by miscreants on August 13 -- which forced the city to sit up and take note of the dangers involved in opposing an increasingly powerful and belligerent mafia.

Joshi, it is widely believed, had paid with his life for opposing encroachments on government land by builders in Indore. Before the city could recover from the bandhs and protests that followed the murder, Ishaq, a corporator of Sanwer Municipality adjoining the city, was killed, again over a land-related dispute. "The mafia is in a position to eliminate anybody who comes in its way. It's a Mumbai-like situation," says Manohar Dalal, a lawyer who is facing threats to his life for having filed a series of petitions before the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court against illegal construction and encroachments. It was in response to Dalal's petitions that the district administration, the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) and Indore Development Authority (IDA) were forced last week to draw up lists of illegally-constructed buildings and encroachments on government land. The two bodies admitted to the court that there were nearly 400 illegal multi-storeyed buildings in the city -- all constructed in the '90s -- apart from about 295 unsanctioned colonies. Contrary to the popular belief that shanty-dwellers were involved in most of the encroachments, it turned out that the culprits were actually members of the city's upper-middle class. The list of colony builders and owners of high-rise buildings on encroached land reads like a virtual Who's Who of Indore politics, including both BJP and Congress leaders.

There can only be conjecture about the amount of money involved in the racket. Says IDA Director Kewal Yadav, one of the few bureaucrats believed to have resisted mafia intimIDAtion: "I have been offered Rs 2 crore to absent myself from IDA meetings. You can imagine what people who support the proposals must be making." The IDA and the IMC are reported to be under the control of Mahesh Joshi, Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's right-hand man. Mahesh faces allegations of abetting the mafia's operations. And he is not the only one. Topping the list of violators submitted to the court by the two civic bodies is Digvijay's relative, Surendra Singh Garha, who has illegally constructed a high-rise on government land.

With such powerful politicians allegedly backing the builders, the clout of the mafia is undisputed. The IDA has cancelled several of its own schemes, presumably under pressure from the builders, and shopping arcades are now coming up on land reserved for parking space and road broadening. "Earlier, the schemes were dropped by the IDA board; now instructions for cancelling construction plans come from the environment minister and the chief minister, who have passed orders saying that the consent of the board is not required for changing building plans," says a senior IDA official.

The story is the same in the IMC too. Its list of illegally-constructed buildings includes a six-storeyed structure being built by a powerful clique of builders, allegedly on the basis of a fake blueprint. Dalal estimates that nearly 40 IDA schemes involving 200 acres of prime land have been shelved and the land released for private construction during the current regime. "The building mafia in Indore is earning about Rs 500 crore every year and a sizeable portion goes into the hands of politicians in Bhopal," he says.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP MLA, talks candidly about the role played by politicians in the matter. He admits that legislators of his party have made a fortune from building activity but claims that the entire operation is masterminded by Congress leaders. On his part, Kripa Shanker Shukla, the Indore district Congress president, blames the media barons of the city for encouraging the land mafia. He says that the owners of several important publications are either builders and colonisers themselves or have close links with the land sharks. "If we squeal, the media goes on the offensive against us," he says. Ironically, Shukla himself has been accused by the BJP of patronising the mafia, a charge which he firmly denies. Colony builder Hemant Agarwal concurs: "If a builder owns a newspaper, he has a definite edge over rivals and the administration." Not surprisingly, Agarwal himself plans to launch a newspaper soon.

However, officials say it's not just the land racket that has encouraged the mafia in the town. There are more sinister forces at work. Drug-runners, for instance. Besides its bustling wholesale market and its strategic location between the two important industrial townships of Pithampur and Dewas, Indore is also located close to Mandsaur and Ratlam, which produce 60 per cent of the opium grown in the country. So the city has become an important transit point for illegal opium and its derivatives because the Malwa region borders Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Moreover, as recent seizures have shown, the booming pharmaceutical industry in and around the city could also be producing banned drugs like mandrax in large quantities. The arrest of businessman Prem Sisodiya last year for a mandrax shipment worth several crores of rupees also exposed the widespread links of the mafia. Just days before Sisodiya's arrest, the chief minister attended a religious function at his house.

There is, therefore, a strong possibility of an existing nexus between drug money, land acquisition and illegal construction. The region's links with the Mumbai underworld were exposed by the Gujarat Police last year when it unearthed a large cache of arms from Mahidpur town. The seizure, which included two dozen AK-47 rifles, was believed to be part of the consignment sent by the Dawood Ibrahim gang which landed on the Konkan coast along with rdx explosives which were used in the Bombay blasts in 1993. Significantly, the city police got to know about the recovery of arms only after the Gujarat police team finished its investigation. Subsequent interrogation has led to the disclosure of a well-knit mafia in Malwa which is engaged not only in smuggling drugs from mandsaur but also across the border into Gujarat.

After the authorities brought down a five-storeyed illegal structure with dynamite last year, there was hope that the power of the rogue builders would be curbed. But since then, the district and civic officials have shown a distinct reluctance to go after the mafia. On top of that, the state government has reserved all powers related to land use to itself.

That the mafia has invested money in land is evident from the fact that the price of land in neemuch town, which is the hub of the opium belt, equals that of Indore -- around Rs 1,000 per sq ft in residential areas. Indore's people, unable to find succour from the rapaciousness of the builders, are rapidly growing more dejected. And there can be no better example of the effect the Government's apathy has had on them than the changing attitude of die hard anti-mafia campaigners like Manohar Dalal and Kewal Yadav: both are gradually losing heart and even contemplating giving up the battle.

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