Govt suspects that 4,000 acres of land were illegally purchased by TDP bigwigs.
HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has ordered the Crime Investigation Department (CID) to register cases against the previous TDP government’s ministers, legislators and others who had purchased land from farmers through “benami” (bogus) transactions. The government suspects that at least 4,000 acres of land was illegally purchased by the TDP big shots from farmers at cheap prices.
The CID is part of an overall enquiry to be taken up by the AP Lokayukta into the Amaravati lands “insider trading” allegations against the previous Chandrababu Naidu government. CM Jagan’s Cabinet has taken a decision to investigate the illegal purchase of lands from farmers as well as forcibly taking the lands assigned to the scheduled castes and tribes (SC/ STs).
The AP CID cops have so far booked cases against two former ministers—P. Narayana (municipal administration) and Prattipati Pulla Rao (agriculture)—for buying lands from the SC/ST farmers. As per the law, buying the lands allotted to SC/STs, called “assigned lands”, is a crime. Sources in the CID told this newspaper that some more ministers and former MLAs and MPs too would be booked soon. Right from it came into office in 2019 May, the Jagan government has been maintaining that there was a big scam committed by the Chandrababu Naidu regime in the acquisition of lands for Amaravati capital city, between two big coastal cities—Vijayawada and Guntur. While the government has pooled up around 33,000 acres of land from farmers, big chunks were bought by the TDP bigwigs. CM Jagan as well as many of his senior ministers including Botsa Satyanarayana (municipal administration) and Buggana Rajendranath Reddy (finance) told the just concluded Assembly that former CM Naidu has been agitating for retaining Amaravati as the capital of Andhra Pradesh because of his vested interests there in the form of large land bank.
“Amaravati is not only financially non-viable, but also ridden with several land scams by influential persons in the previous government, how can we allow all this go un-investigated?” asked Minister Satyanarayana while addressing a media conference at Vijayawada on Friday evening. The ongoing CID probe would unearth all facts of this scam, he said.
Officials in the CID are widening their probe purview by taking the help of Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other state government departments to see how persons with white ration cards (given to those from the below the poverty line) could purchase lands worth Rs 2 crore per acre and that too with substantial amounts of cash. So far, the CID has identified around 790 transactions of land purchase from original farmers between June 2014 and December 2014, when the Chandrababu Naidu government has officially declared a green field capital city named Amaravati would come up at the present location. Minister Narayana, who held the capital city department with him, has been accused of resorting to the insider trading. In a complaint lodged with the I-T and ED officials, the CID cops have pointed out that as many as 790 persons who bought the lands paying prices ranging Rs 35 lakh to R s 2 crore per acre have failed to establish their sources of income of affordability.
“On the face it, these transactions are nothing but benami, (bogus deals done on behalf of some real owners),” the CID letter to the I-T said. The CID officials have so far issued notices to a dozen of these farmers who had purchased lands and called for written explanation on their source of money. If they failed to explain, the deals would be cancelled, or otherwise, they will be held responsible for holding white ration cards illegally. The white ration card is issued based on a declaration that their annual income is below Rs 5 lakh. On the other hand, the government has begun reducing the size of the Amaravati city limits, by denitrifying five villages out of the total 29 through a government order on Friday. These villages were merged with adjoining Mangalagiri and Tadepalli mandals in Guntur district. The capital region development authority is now changed to Amaravati metropolitan area development authority. Sources in the municipal administration department said the government would reduce the number of villages in Amaravati limits, thus making it a smaller urban entity. These changes are intended to cut down expenditure of the previous government on the capital city region.
“We are not altogether scrapping the project of Amaravati city, but will be reducing its size and stature to meet the present days needs. All the assigned lands would be returned to their rightful owners (SC/STs) and registration of illegal deals would be cancelled. Amaravati will be there as a legislative capital, with an Assembly complex and camp office for the CM,” a senior official said.