In a flurry of deals between June 2009 and August 2011, Robert Vadra purchased at least 20 plots of land collectively measuring more than 770 hectares in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district, in a region that would see prices spiraling soon after.
A clutch of investors, including Vadra, apparently privy to information on upcoming industrial projects in the vicinity, reaped huge profits with land values appreciating by up to 40 times since 2009.
Click here to read the list of plots
Data from the office of the registrar in Bikaner shows 20 properties Vadra purchased through companies, including Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd, North India IT Park Pvt Ltd, and Skylight Realty Pvt Ltd. All the deals were executed on his behalf by Mahesh Nagar, brother of Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee member Lalit Nagar. These companies together invested Rs2.85 crore in barren land here during this period.
“Vadra clearly misused his position as the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi,” said Devi Singh Bhati, six-time MLA of the Kolayat tehsil where most of the Bikaner deals took place. “The land was purchased either in the knowledge that industrial projects would be announced, or circumstances were created to bring projects to the area.”
Just days before a memorandum of understanding was inked between the Rajasthan government and a private firm for a Rs45,000-crore project to manufacture silicon chips for the telecom industry, Mahesh Nagar — acting on behalf of another company named Blue Bridge Trading Pvt Ltd — completed two deals in Gajner village of Kolayat, home to over 15 such deals.
Bhati said a grid substation came to Gajner soon after the land deals, followed by more industries, including solar power plants promoted by the government’s solar parks policy.
Clearly, that is why Vadra did not buy the land cheap — almost all the plots were purchased at several times the government-recommended rates.
Bikaner businessman and land investor Vineet Asopa, who sold among the largest plots to Vadra, was so surprised at the ease with which he demanded and received Rs65,000 a hectare when local prices were no more than Rs30,000 a hectare that he summoned contractors for an overnight survey of whether the land was rich in minerals. They dug 80 feet deep, found only rocky surface, and Asopa went ahead with the deal. He found out only two months later that the purchaser was Vadra, whose signature was on the cheques.
At least one individual who sold land to Mahesh Nagar said the deals were done rapidly, the buyer depicting an unusual “hunger” for the land. Local MP Arjun Meghwal, too, has called for an investigation.
Taking place amid rapid land purchases in the region – local people estimate that over 3,000 hectares changed hands between 2009 and 2011 in Bikaner alone – the deals led to further speculation and more investors queuing up.
“A variety of reasons pushed prices upward in the area – the Vavasi silicon chip project and the solar parks policy, to start with,” said Hariom Garg, a local journalist-activist who wrote about Vadra’s purchases in 2010.
As Vadra and a host of others invested heavily, prices spurted alongside demand, nudged by the fact that these highway-side plots will be the spine of the Bhatinda-Barmer route that will see traffic multiply once a proposed refinery in Barmer is ready.