NEWS

Mega Land Grab in Bangalore, The Silicon City

December 01, 2007
GV Krishnan

It is absurd; it’s pure theatre; and it is unacceptable. My reference is to the records tampering allegation a Karnataka Congress MLC has made against the chairman of the joint legislature committee that exposed a 45,000 acre land grab in greater Bangalore. I don't expect Mr A T Ramaswamy to be recommended for a Rajosthava award for carrying out a thankless task of chairing the panel. But to accuse him of foul play is preposterous.

For those who haven’t heard, the Ramaswamy committtee has come up with the finding that 45,000 acres of government urban land in and around Bangalore has been grabbed by 46,000 individuals and institutions. The list is said to include politicians, builders, businessmen, showbiz people, and even heads of spiritual/religious institutions.

ABSURDITY: Mr V S Ugrappa, a Congress MLC, has charged Mr Ramaswamy and others with “tempering documents”, in a bid to “malign political opponents, notably, the Congress”. The encroachers named in the report include family members of a former Congress chief minister. On the face of it, it is hard to imagine that the panel chair would stoop so low as to meddle with documents obtained from government departments in the course of his committee investigation. Mr R would have had to be naive, and downright stupid to have attempted records tampering, even if such a thing were possible.

If Mr Ugrappa has any evidence to substantiate his charge, he hasn’t shared it with the media that reported his accusation. I have a problem with our media here. How could a responsible newspaper report a scandalous allegation without as much as asking the accuser (Mr Ugrappa) if he had evidence to substantiate his charge? The usual balancing ploy media adopts to get reaction from the targeted person (Mr Ramaswamy) isn’t enough in this case; Reporting faithfully what Mr Ugrappa alleged without questioning the veracity of his allegation is not my idea of fair reporting.

THEATRE: Which doesn’t mean his action could go unreported.The story was that this Congress MLC, along with some party folk, barged in to interfere with whatever Mr Ramaswamy and his committee men were doing in Vidhana Soudha. The Congress MLC was involved in an altercation with a committee official. Isn’t obstructing an official from performing his legitimate duty a crime?

Mr Ramaswamy and the committee official were at the Vidhan Soudha to meet the assembly speaker to hand over to him half a truckload of documents held by the committee, now that it had submitted its report.

UNACCEPTABLE: That a serious allegation undermining the integrity of a joint legislature committee and its chairman is made in so casual a manner. And that the person making the allegation is allowed to get away with it.

The Ramaswamy panel, in its seven-volume report lists 46,000 persons/agencies/institutions/companies held guilty of grabbing government land. The scale of encroachment could be much higher than what the committee has been able to detect (45,000 acres).

Mr Ramaswamy, in a letter to the governor, attributes the mega land grab to mischief and corruption “at all levels, with public servants creating and abetting bogus records on the basis of which government lands are grabbed fearlessly by builders and others”.

Legislation providing for special courts to try land-grab cases - the Karnataka Prevention of Land Grabbing Act, 2007 - has been awaiting the President’s assent for the last eight months.

Now that the state is under President’s rule; and that the committee report is with the government, the least we, the people, can hope is that the relevant Bill would get Presidential assent without any further delay.

Retired Times of India correspondent, based in Mysore.; hosts MysoreBlogPark, a parking lot for a bunch of Mysore-connected bloggers; writes a Monday column for www.zine5.com
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#1
Lakshmikanth
URL
December 1, 2007
03:15 PM

Not surprising at all! Questioning statements/reports/accusations has never been a strong point of most of the Indians. The media is a whore who gives people what they want. And politicians play games with the weakness of people.

Combine all that and you get what you have here.. a big freakin mess.

#2
kerty
December 1, 2007
04:39 PM

When Presidents and Governors are handpicked by congress using political loyalties as a litmus test, one can not expect them to act non-partisan or neutral - it is their partisan and loyalist credentials that got them into those positions in the first place - so president rule is de facto a proxy congress rule. It allows congress to rule such states through back-door. Unless whole media and political opposition is mobilized on a given issue to force president not to be blatantly partisan, it is a forgone conclusion that congress will get what it wants.

#3
ajay
December 2, 2007
01:05 AM

Karnataka is the most corrupt state in the south, so this is hardly surprising. It isn't called the Bihar of the south for no reason.

#4
smallsquirrel
December 2, 2007
01:52 AM

ajay, this is the first time I am hearing any of that... care to substantiate?

#5
ajay
December 2, 2007
10:48 AM

SS, I thought it was fairly well known..
after a cursory search on the internet I found an article to cite it
http://www.forbes.com/finance/2007/11/28/india-corruption-bangalore-pf-ii-in_rr_1128soapbox_inl.html

The most damning claim came from the WorldBank when it declared karnataka as most corrupt state it had done business with. But this was quickly denied by the worldbank officials after the report raised a ruckus amongst officials in bangalore.
http://www.outlookindia.com/pti_news.asp?id=332871

I had read up another article which I am unable to locate now that polled business leaders for ease of setting up a business in a particular state. Karnataka's biggest hurdle was corruption compared to the other states. They had issues with red-tape. I had read this a few years ago, and I am sure not much has changed.

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