As reported by D P Bhattacharya in on 20 January 2008:
Land price rising, but religious body with deep pockets gets a subsidy

Land price rising, but religious body with deep pockets gets a subsidy

Ahmedabad, January 19 As realtors across the country are basking in the rising price of land, in the capital of Gujarat, it might just be plummeting for a few select agencies. This, at least, is what appears form a document provided by the office of the District Collector, Gandhinagar, in a response to an RTI application.

On June 2007, city-based activist Harinseh Pandya had filed an RTI application with the department of Housing and Urban Development seeking details of land distribution in Gandhinagar.

While Pandya is yet to receive the complete information, the partial information furnished is enough to raise eyebrows. At a time when prime land is provided at a prime cost to developers, a huge chunk has been provided to a religious body at a nominal price.

“The government has provided land at a highly subsidised rate to Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sansthan (BAPS) in four installments since 1975,” said Pandya.

In 1975, the organisation was given 6000 sq m at Sector 20 in Gandhinagar at the rate of Rs 15 per sq m. The second allotment of 3000 sq m came in 1981at the rate of Rs 45 per sq m. The third allotment of 20,800 sq m was made in 1984 at the rate of Rs 400 per sq m. The fourth allotment of 3,340 sq m came the same year at the same rate. “Finally, the government leased out 50,000 sq m to the organisation for 99 years at the token rate of Re 1 per year in 1990 to develop a garden,” Pandya says. “One may wonder what propels such allotments to an organisation which does not have any dearth of funds.”

The BAPS figures among the top 15 recipients of foreign contributions in the country, with Rs 62.31 crore received as foreign contribution during 2005-06, Rs 44.23 crore in 2004-05 and Rs 23.24 crore in 2003-04.

The last installment was provided at a time when the government is busy developing an IT hub in the city. In January 2007, under the mega IT project, DLF Company Ltd, Haryana, was allotted 25.5 acres at Rs 5,000 per sq m near Infocity to develop an IT Park. The Tata Consultancy Services and the ICICI bank were allotted 25 acres and 58797 sq m respectively for Rs 1,100 per sq m.

When contacted, Gandhinagar Collector, Mamta Verma however said that, she will look into the matter.

According to the information furnished, of the 1473.46 hectares of land in the city, 1136.87 hectares have already been allotted. While the biggest share — 486.57 hectares — has been given to industries, 401.09 hectares have been allotted for residential purposes (287.76 hectare private and 113.31 hectare government land). Around 148 hectares have been allotted for commercial purposes, of which 5.7 hectares are for shops and 142.5 hectares for offices.

Further, 91.43 hectares are for educational purposes, 9.46 hectares for religious and 0.1 hectare for social reasons. Around 336.61 hectares are yet to be distributed.