Chhattisgarh newspapers get notices for commercial use of govt land
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In their responses, the newspapers have refuted the charge, despite their premises clearly hosting banks, stores and other offices. Some have said no audit team ever visited them.
The government has taken no further action. Days after the notices were served, land (nazul) officer Yamini Pandey Gupta was transferred. Later, so were Raipur collector Rohit Yadav and deputy collector (nazul) Jaishree Jain. The new officers refused to comment saying they were yet to look at the files.
The audit report, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, recommended the deeds be cancelled and the land taken back as the government had suffered a loss of Rs 98.5 crore. The report attached photographs to prove the violations, and said the newspapers did not cooperate on giving the requisite documents. It said "the violation continued in connivance with officers to ensure these papers undue benefit".
The land once had a pond that was covered to allow a press complex. The deed noted "the land will not be used for any other purpose, else the deed will be rendered unauthorised or the market value of the land will have to be paid with penalty".
Some of the audit findings:
Audit report: Land given in 1985. A new building, where the paper is likely to shift soon, is under construction. "Construction is on above ground+3 floors, which is illegal. According to the display board of Bhaskar Group at the spot, DB City, Corporate Park, is being constructed, and contact numbers are also mentioned for taking shop/office on lease/rent... the government should cancel the deed and take possession of the land. But the authorised officer did not conduct a ground survey and the Bhaskar Group is being given undue benefit." The report said the newspaper had taken unauthorised possession of an adjoining 9,212 sq ft belonging to the jail department.
In September 2009, the Raipur administration sent a notice to the newspaper to deposit Rs 7.62 crore by March 2011. Reminder sent in April 2011; amount not deposited.
Present status: When The Indian Express called the number 8962112000 displayed on the "DB City, Corporate Park" billboard, a person who identified himself as Rajneesh Tiwari, marketing executive of Bhaskar Group, said only a few floors in the building would be for press purposes and the remaining would be corporate offices. "Agreements have been signed with several MNCs and they are soon opening their corporate offices. We are also planning a rooftop restaurant."
Newspaper's response: "No violation of the land deed."
Audit report: Corporation Bank operating from first floor since January 14, 1994. A 2006 inquiry report by the revenue examiner (nazul) did not say the press complex was being used for other purposes, and this was a deliberate omission.
Present status: Bank recently shifted out. In a June 2011 letter now in government files, assistant manager N K Doshi confirmed they had operated there since January 1994.
Newspaper's response: Audit team never visited our complex. Premises never used for other purposes.
Audit report: The newspaper had built a commercial complex where Bank of India, cycle and computer stores operated. Deed should be cancelled or the income Samvet Shikhar makes from commercial use should be deposited with exchequer.
Present status: The shops mentioned, including Batra Cycle Store, continue to function. In an April 19, 2012, letter to the nazul officer, Bank of India's senior officer Rajendra Jaangde admitted the bank had been on the complex since September 2011.
Newspaper's response: Land is being used in accordance with deed.
Audit report: The newspaper has built a basement and ground plus six floors. Corporation Bank on ground floor, a board of advocates Vinod and Varun Maheshawri is on display on the third floor. The deed should be cancelled and land reclaimed.
Present status: Corporation Bank and the advocates still there.
Newspaper's response: Extension of reply date sought as managing editor Anil Jha is out of Raipur.
Audit report: A commercial complex has been constructed and several offices/shops are running there.
Present status: All shops and offices continue to function at the huge commercial complex.
Newspaper's response: Audit team never visited. No commercial construction. No violation.
Audit report: A medical shop operates on the property. Also on display are boards of other establishments.
Present status: The shops operate from the complex.
Newspaper's response: No violation of land deed.