₹2,800 crore ‘scam’ in allotment of plots for farmhouses in Noida: CAG report

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) Performance Audit Report on Land Acquisition and Allotment of Properties in Noida in Uttar Pradesh, 2021, which was tabled by parliamentary affairs minister Suresh Khanna in the UP assembly on Friday, said there was a loss of 55,000 crore to the state exchequer during the allotment of plots for residential, commercial and industrial purposes in Noida between 2005 and 2014.

The CAG report said there were losses to the tune of 2,800 crore in one scheme alone, which dealt with allotment of plots for farmhouses.

However, a 2013 report of the UP Lokayukta– an independent government body probing corruption cases in the state, said there was ‘zero scam’ in the allotment process. These two crucial reports with differing conclusions have become a subject of debate. The losses incurred in allotment of plots for farmhouses also differ in two smaller probes, which were undertaken in 2013 to determine if there was a scam or not.

The scam pertains to the allotment of about 150 plots measuring 1, 000 square metres in 12 villages to companies and individuals allegedly at throwaway prices and by flouting norms. The fertile farmland was acquired for industrial development and later allotted for the construction of farmhouses in 2008-10.

“The farmhouse plot allotment was a scam because the purpose of land acquisition was for industrial use… later the industrial land was allotted to private companies and developers to build farmhouses that too at a very low price thereby causing a loss of at least 2,800 crore to the state exchequer,” said the CAG report.

On August 7, 2013, the then UP government had asked the Lokayukta to conduct a probe. On December 11, 2013, justice (retired) N K Mehrotra, who presided over the UP Lokayukta that time, gave a clean chit to the then UP chief minister and about a dozen officials of the Noida authority stating that he found ‘no scam’ in the scheme of allotting plots for the construction of farmhouses.

When approached, Mehrotra he said, “How can I go back on my report now? Whatever I did was correct as per the facts available to me. Our report was based on the evidence that was provided to us back then.”

Back then, the UP Lokayukta’s disclosures contradicted with two other reports– one of former chairman of Noida authority Rakesh Bahadur, whose findings claimed that the farmhouse scam runs into 1, 000 crore, and a local fund audit report which said the scam was worth 150 crore.

“I doubt if anything will happen to those who allegedly allotted plots meant for industrial usage for construction of farmhouses by flouting norms. Even after three reports claimed that the farmhouse allotment scheme was scam a running into crores, nothing happened in the past. The CAG report will be a waste if no action is taken against officials involved,” said Praveen Bharatiya, founder president of Corruption free India, a social group in Noida.

UP industry minister Satish Mahana said, “The CAG has established that there was corruption in allotment of farmhouse plots. Action will be taken against the guilty as per the law. No one will be spared.”

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