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Lavasa’s Issues Cut Deeper

DNPUN15078 | 5/30/2009 | Author : Team DNA | WC :1238 | Politics & Governance

PCI report mentions Shedge’s case

The People’s Commission of Inquiry (PCI) report on its part has said that Dnyaneshwar Vishnu Shedge and Maruti Vishnu Shedge had told the PCI that the land owned by their father Vishnu Navji Shedge was transferred in the name Swati Ramdas Dawre in 2000 without the knowledge of the family members. Vishnu Navji Shedge who died at 97 in November 2000 was ill for the last 15 years and was blind. According to the family, he was completely incapacitated and could have entered into any land deal. However, a land transaction has been recorded in his name dated August 2000 in the 7/12 (saat-bara) land ownership record with the Pune district administration.
According to the family members and Vishnu’s sons Dnyaneshwar and Maruti, it was impossible for their father to do any such transaction without their knowledge considering his age and health complications.
The Kejriwal report has questioned as to how the 97-year old man could enter into a land sale transaction just a few weeks before his death, without any assistance from the family. Also, how come, “The mutation entry no. 577 dated June 6, 2001 of the said land survey numbers has been made without mentioning the legal heirs of Late Mr Vishnu Navji Shedge?”
The report has said that after a complaint was filed by the legal heirs, the purchaser issued five cheques of Janata Sahkari Bank, Karve Road, Pune, which bounced and were not encashed. Despite this land transaction being illegal, “all these survey numbers are under construction work by Lavasa Corporation,” the report states.
The report has cited other such cases of alleged irregularities relating to land occupied by Lavasa Corporation for its helipad (survey no. 18, 25 part 27), construction of certain roads, NASA inspired Space World edutainment project and for the construction of a mini-dam at Mugaon (survey no. 66).

Points raised by People’s Commission of Inquiry
The interim report filed by the People’s Commission of Inquiry on April 20 has demanded an immediate inquiry by an independent committee into the following points relating to the Lavasa Project:
372 acres of government land belonging to the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) that was virtually “gifted” by the Maharashtra Government to Lavasa Corporation  by leasing it to the company for a period of 99 years at a very low premium.
912 acres of surplus land declared under the land ceiling law in 1975 but never acquired by the government for distribution to the landless. This land was acquired by the government under the ceiling law within just three days and transferred to Lavasa Corporation committing serious breach of provisions and mandates of the Land Ceiling Act, 1976 and depriving the landless from getting benefits of it.
112 acres of Inaam land which should have been re-granted to them after accepting statutory price from holders of the land, under the provisions of the Inaam land laws. This land has been illegally transferred to Lavasa on lease for 99 years at nominal premium.
A letter was written by the district collector, Pune, on July 4th, 2001 to Director, The Lake City Corporation Pvt. Ltd. Aniruddha Deshpande (Pune-based land developer) regarding the land acquisition for the project stating some conditions. . These conditions have been grossly violated by the company and overruled by the district administration, MKVDC, Urban Planning Department, Revenue Department, Forest Department, Pollution Control Board and the State government.
Huge monetary losses suffered by the the government while granting concessions in respect of premium of lease, stamp revenue and royalty of minor minerals and those responsible for losses be punished. Losses should be directed to be recovered from Lavasa forthwith.
Conduct inquiry into allegedly fraudulent  private land deals by agents of the company with  poor, illiterate and rustic farmers at throwaway prices and all such transactions be reviewed and either modified directing company to pay prevailing market price of the land to the owners or be cancelled.

Incorporated originally as Pearly Blue Lake Resorts Pvt Ltd by Pune land developer Aniruddha Deshpande in February 2000 to “develop land on a large scale” and conduct “hotel business as the main object”.
In December 2000, the company changed its name to The Lake City Corporation Pvt Ltd and in 2004, the name was again changed to Lavasa Corporation Ltd.
Lavasa Corporation is a subsidiary of the Mumbai-based HCC Real Estate Ltd.
First of its kind in the country, the 12,500 acre Lavasa Lake City has been planned amidst 25,000 acre in the Mose valley, which has been designated as a Hill Station by the Maharashtra government.
The Lake City has been planned as a “New Urbanism” project around the concept of “live, work, learn, and play” allowing non-polluting industries and enterprises relating to tourism, health, hospitality, biotech, infotech, research and education to be based there.
It has been projected to be completed in phases with a residential population of 18,000 people in the first phase by 2009-10 and 1.10 people on completition by 2021.
In 2007, the company’s chief operating officer Rajgopal Nogja had stated that an estimated Rs30,000 crore would have been invested in the project on completition.
The project will have business and residential properties and would attract one million tourists annually.
The project plan has received awards from the Congress of New Urbanism, USA and the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Has been planned with access points from Pune, Lonavla, Mumbai-Goa highway and Pune-Mumbai Expressway.

Fast-track project for state govt?
During 2002-03, the Lake City Corporation (renamed as Lavasa in June 2004) received 31 No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from many government departments including state pollution control board, irrigation department, MKVDC. The company also signed four MoUs with the tourism and irrigation departments. These agreements and NOCs were related to the purchase of land for industrial use, tree felling, stone crushing, quarrying and construction of mini-dams and impounding of water for commercial use.

Big-wigs with a Lavasa connection
Supriya and Sadanand Sule

NCP president and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and her husband Sadanand were prominent shareholders in the Lavasa Lake City Corporation during 2002-04.
On October 3, 2002, the Lake City Corporation Pvt Ltd allotted 12.48 lakh equity shares and 26.64 lakh 6% redeemable preference shares to Sadanand Sule.
As of October 6, 2004, Sadanand and Supriya Sule jointly held 7.49 lakh equity shares and 29.97 lalkh 6% redeemable preference shares of the Lavasa Corporation with a face value of Rs10.
Sadanand Sule acknowledged in March, 2006 that he “was associated with the project in its initial stages” but “got out of it later.”

State cabinet minister Ajit Pawar
Ajit Pawar was minister incharge of Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC) when this body signed a 30-year lease agreement with the Lavasa Lake City Corporation on September 23, 2002 for construction of mini-dams and impounding of water for commercial use.
The details of this MoU were revealed only when it was obtained under the Right to Information Act, 2005 by city activist Maruti Bhapkar in December 2005.
When asked in 2006 whether this amounted to a conflict of interest as his cousin Supriya Sule was a major shareholder in the company, Ajit Pawar said: “While entering into an agreement or signing an MoU, no minister sees who the shareholders in the company are. We only see what is legal and good for the people. I am not aware that Supriya Sule has shares in Lavasa.”

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