When the state’s entire anti-corruption mechanism and law enforcement teams are busy digging up the Rs10,000-odd crore Miyapur land scam, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao claiming that nothing of that sort happened is absurd, ridiculous, illogical and above all, it is illegal too.
The law enforcement mechanism had declared that the scam took place, arrested the big sharks involved in the illegal land registration deals of nearly 700 acres worth over Rs10,000 crore and matter is sub judice. Being the head of a government, a Chief Minister denying the police charges against certain individuals definitely amounts to influencing judiciary.
With the main accused – Goldstone’s Parthasarathy and Sharma getting bail on the following day of CM’s vociferous denial of any scam particularly in front of media, the incident leaves a bad precedent in a democratic system.
If the CM and his cabinet colleagues – especially Minister T. Harish Rao – were correct in denying any land scam, why is the police department arresting so many people and sub-registrars in the name of multi-crore Miyapur land scam?
If KCR is right, why the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) conducting raids on the houses of sub-registrars who worked in those areas an were put suspension in the name of Miyapur land scam?
Why Rajya Sabha MP K. Kesava Rao has offered to return the 38 acres of government land bought by his family in May 2016 in the Hafeezpur village in Ibrahimpatnam mandal? Under fire for allegedly purchasing the land despite the former sub-registrar of the area pointing out that it was government land, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader has decided to make an exit from what he now describes as a “murky deal”‘.
KK’s offer has come even as KCR denied that his government has lost even one paisa to land sharks. If that was indeed the case, why did KCR transfer 70 sub-registrars and even hand over the case to the CID? Isn’t the chief minister’s statement that not one inch of government land was lost, pre-judging the case even before the investigation has begun?
The claim itself is disputable given the kind of money that is being unearthed during raids on sub-registrars in the state. The Anti-Corruption Bureau found Prabhakar Reddy, a document writer of having “purchased” a whopping 161 properties in the last few years. He has even disposed off 120 of those properties. The total value of the assets was reportedly worth Rs14 crore. But Reddy was merely the benami owner, the real owner allegedly is Kukatpally sub-registrar Rachakonda Srinivas Rao, who would route all financial transactions through Reddy. The raids have proven that the sub-registrar offices in Telangana are a den of a well-oiled network of corruption. Raids at Balanagar sub-registrar Mohammad Yousuf’s residence unearthed disproportionate assets worth Rs8 crore, including properties, allegedly bought in benami names Both sub-registrars have been suspended.
To show that he means business, KCR also ordered raids on 141 registration offices across Telangana. The ACB has formed a special cell to probe land registration frauds committed so far. But while that will mean cleaning up the rot at the business end of the operations, the feeling is that those with political connections are getting away scot-free. Why would huge bribes be paid to sub-registrars and their men in the registration offices unless they were helping private parties make a killing, while obviously denting the state exchequer? For KCR, to claim that the government didn’t lose any money, therefore, is laughable.
And it isn’t just Kesava Rao whose family had bought the land. Another TRS MP D. Srinivas also is in the dock for reportedly getting land that had been allotted to Dalits. Srinivas in his defence says, “This land passed several hands before I bought it. So, how did the registration department allow all those transactions.”
The lid was blown off the scam only after an internal audit of the registration department — in March — revealed sale of 693 acres of land in Miyapur, a locality on the outskirts of Hyderabad. A back of the envelope calculation revealed that the land parcel was worth Rs587 crore.
But the feeling gaining ground is that only the sub-registrars are facing the flak. PS Prasad of the Goldstone group, one of the main accused in the case, is absconding and is known to be politically connected. His two colleagues got bail on Friday. They pleaded the lands are held by private parties and do not belong to the government. Different companies with links to the Goldstone group, according to police officials, are essentially suitcase companies.
The modus operandi was to target lands that were once owned by members of the extended Hyderabad Nizam family or the nobles who held positions of power before 1948 when Hyderabad became part of the Indian Union. Under the Jagir Abolition Act, all unoccupied land was taken over by the Hyderabad state in the early 50s. But in many cases, the kith and kin of the nobles filed cases, contesting the nominal compensation paid in many cases or no money being paid in some instances.
The scamsters would create the impression that there are multiple claimants for the same land. They would allegedly manufacture fabricated documents of the lands and register it in the name of two different sets of benamis, claiming to be descendants of the nobles. The two groups would then go to court staking claim on the land. The case would drag on for months after which one of the benami parties would withdraw, leaving the other group in possession. With the sub-registrar taking his cut to sign on the dotted line, the “government” never realised that the land was being taken out under its nose.
Ironically, even while the chief minister says that the scam is a figment of the imagination of the media and the opposition parties, the public prosecutor — while arguing against granting bail to the two accused from the Goldstone group — said they had cheated several gullible people with forged documents and that only a detailed probe would unearth the clandestine transactions in this scam.
The Opposition believes many members of the ruling TRS have their hands in the till, and therefore, want a court-monitored CBI investigation into the case, which they allege is a Rs 15,000 crore land scam. “A member of PS Prasad’s family is still working as a secretary in the chief minister’s office. The chief minister has to answer how this is being allowed,” says Revanth Reddy, TDP leader.
During the Telangana agitation, KCR promised a Bangaru Telangana (golden Telangana) if bifurcation from Andhra Pradesh happened. The pity is only some fraudsters seem to have struck gold in the last three years.
KCR Tries Put The Lid On Mammoth 693-Acre Miyapur Land Scam
With the Miyapur land scam fire singeing the corridors of power, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has reacted to the controversy for the first time and virtually put a lid on the scam. “There was no monetary loss to the government and not even one square yard of land was encroached upon. There is no scam as is being alleged. Irregularities have been primarily perpetuated by private people with inten tion of gaining a legal standing in their court battles. In the entire episode, not even one-rupee loss was reported and one square yard of land lost,” he said.
The chief minister’s bid to hush up the scam exposes the nervousness within. If there was no scam, why did the state government hold a high-level meeting with the registration department officials and decided to shunt out 70 sub-registrars or even mull a CID probe?
Now, with the CM making a public statement negating the scam, investigations may crawl or just about stop, burying all evidence. This, even as the entire Opposition is demanding a CBI probe with deputy CM Mohammad Mahmood Ali and TRS MP Keshava Rao getting embroiled in the row.
The CM, however, said, “Registrations of fixed assets should be registered in register number 1, whereas irregular registrations were reported in register number 4 where only movable assets will be listed. If all private citizens want ownership, they would have to pay Rs415 crore as registration fee whereas they paid only Rs60 lakh. This clarifies that there was no change of ownership of government land.”
KCR has made it clear that his government will weed out corrupt staff in the department. “The investigation into the Miyapur scam is moving on,” he said. There are indications the state government is moving fast to fill key vacancies in the registration department, beginning with chief commissioners of land administration (CCLA) to the inspector general in stamps and revenue department.