BDA land cheaper than a cup of tea?

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The Bangalore Development Authority is back in the news for the wrong reasons.

The agency has sold two acres and 35 guntas of land (more than 1.25 lakh sq ft) to its own employees’ welfare association for Rs. 8,60,675 in the upmarket Banashankari area. That works out to about Rs. 6.87 per sq ft; and that is cheaper than a cup of tea in this city, where land is equated to gold in terms of value.

According to estimates by some real estate developers, the actual value of the land is at least a thousand times more. “If you find land in that area that is less than Rs. 6,000 per sq ft, please inform me and I will buy it,” asserts RTI activist B.M. Shivkumar, who is behind this revelation.

Producing documents to back his claim at a press conference here on Monday, Mr. Shivkumar holds Chief Minister Siddaramaiah morally responsible for what he describes as the “biggest scam since the BJP government surrendered its brief”. He reckons that the land that was sold for a little less than Rs. 7 lakh is worth Rs. 100 crore at the very least in the open market. The sale deed that Mr. Shivkumar shares with reporters shows that the BDA sold the land to the BDA Employees’ Welfare Association on June 4. Mr. Shivkumar’s press conference has triggered media frenzy with television channels already calling for an explanation from the Chief Minister’s office, with some even suggesting a CBI probe. Speaking to the The Hindu, BDA Commissioner T. Sham Bhat and employees’ association president D.N. Bette Gowda, however, categorically deny any wrongdoing in the transaction.

Mr. Bhat says, “In 2006, the government ordered the BDA to allot 45 acres to the employees’ association. This is the fruitions of a much older deal [when land was cheaper].” Cheaper by a thousand times? “Yes,” says Mr. Bhat, without revealing the cost at which the land was acquired. He, however, points out that four parcels of land — measuring 27 acres, 7 acres, 5 acres and 2 acres — have already been sold to the association since 2007.

Although defending the sale along similar lines, Mr. Gowda claims that the plot in Banashankari was due to the association in 1997. “Back then, the land was worth less than Rs. 1 lakh an acre. In fact, we are paying eight times more than what we should,” he argues.

Mr. Shivkumar, however, holds his ground and says that the BDA has shown undue favouritism. “The BDA has sold the land for less than what it paid to purchase it,” he says.

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