By Stuti Shukla
While India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Anjali Damania is fighting for her 30-acres of land in Kondivade village in Karjat taluk that will be submerged when the Kondhane dam is built, she had bought seven acres of agricultural land nearby in 2007 only to sell it in 2011 after getting it changed to non-agricultural.
Two farmers from whom she bought the plots claimed Damania had told them she would use the land for farming purposes. Karjat is about 120 km east of Mumbai with a significant green belt and is a popular weekend getaway for Mumbaikars.
In 2007, Damania bought 39 contiguous plots totalling seven acres from farmers in Kharvandi village, adjacent to the Kondivade village where the Kondhane dam is proposed on the Ulhas river. According to official documents available with the village talati (a local government employee), the Raigad district collector had permitted change of land use from agricultural to non-agricultural for these plots.
Reached for her comment, Damania said there was nothing illegal in the transactions. “The plots were bought in 2007 as agricultural plots and soon after, I applied with the collector’s office in Raigad to change the user type of these lands from agricultural to non-agricultural. In 2011, these applications were approved following which 37 plots were sold to different buyers. I can produce all the required papers to prove that everything was done legally. If someone thinks this is wrong, the problem then actually lies with the government’s policy in changing the land-use from agricultural to non-agricultural. I am being targeted now because I raised my voice against a corrupt system,” she told The Indian Express.
The land in question had vegetation when bought in 2007, but it gave way to a project of private villas called `Alpine Village’. The project belongs to SVV Developers of which Damania is a director. Of the 39 plots carved out in Alpine Village, 37 were sold to private individuals until August 2011.
Two farmers, Vinod Sonawane and Ramdas Sonawane, said they both sold land to Damania at about Rs 75, 000 per acre in 2007. Damania said she did not remember when asked about the rate at which the 37 plots were sold by her in 2011 after their land-use was changed to non-agricultural.
Vinod Sonawane, who sold 3.5 acres, said Damania purchased the land from him at Rs 2.5 lakh. “My father grew rice and pulses but none of the vegetation exists now. She told us the land will be used for agricultural purposes,” he said. Ramdas Sonawane said he sold the 1.75 acre plot at Rs 1.60 lakh.
Soon after Damania filed a PIL against alleged irregularities in the construction of the Kondhane dam in April 2012, an inquiry of all plots of land belonging to her in Karjat was initiated under the authority of tehsildar Jagatsingh Girase. In August, Girase issued an order which said Damania had provided inadequate proof of being a farmer and so the 36 plots she had bought claiming to be a farmer were taken back by the government. “On physical inspection of these plots, we found that Damania had not carried out agricultural activities on most of them,” he said.
Damania’s fellow petitioner in the PIL, Ajay Mathankar, also owns a plot with two farm-houses close to the dam site. Ajay is the son of former IAS officer Vijay Mathankar, who was the CEO of Raigad Zilla Parishad for three years and is currently the senior vice president of DB Realty.
Owner of a Mumbai based advertising firm, Ajay Mathankar confirmed that the plot belonged to him. “I have been open about the fact that I am a land-owner in this area. When I bought the land in 2011, I was not aware that it was going to be included in the area required for the dam. Irregularities and corruption involved in the construction of the dam prompted me to become a part of the PIL,” he said.
Courtesy : http://www.indianexpress.com