A huge plot of land in Andheri (West) would not have been allotted to Union minister Rajiv Shukla’s trust if controversial bureaucrat Jairaj Phatak, who was then civic chief, had not granted an NoC.
The land, belonging to the state government and reserved for a municipal school, was allowed by Phatak, arrested in connection with the Adarsh scam, to be handed in 2008 to BAG Films Education Society (BFES), a trust controlled by Shukla’s wife Anuradha Prasad. At that time, she was chairperson of the trust.
The state-owned 2,821sqm plot near Country Club, reserved for a primary school, was sold to BAG Films Education Society (BFES) for only Rs98,735 in 2008. Another parcel of land, a 3,534.70sqm plot beside the first one, reserved for a sports field, was allotted to BAG Films Education Society on a 15-year lease for just Rs6,309. After BMC, the state sports department issued a ‘no objection’ to the state urban development department.
While Phatak was not available for comment throughout the day, officials from the civic education department said that any proposal from the state government is a formality and BMC never objects to it. Phatak cleared the proposal sacrificing a civic school that could have benefited poor children from nearby slums.
However, current education committee chairman, Manoj Kotak, said he will demand all state plots reserved for civic schools be handed over to BMC. “There are several plots reserved but if the state gives them out one by one, the city will have nothing for the poor,” said Kotak.
Ashoke Pandit, convenor of Save Open Spaces, has urged the district collector and chief minister’s office to conduct an inquiry and has demanded that until its completion, allotments stand cancelled.
“Many plots could have been similarly gobbled up by politicians,” said Pandit, adding that the value of both plots would be around Rs100 crore in 2008, the current price would be at least Rs500 crore.
“The allotment was done as per 1976 rates. If the state was so keen to start a school , it should have invited reputed institutions and floated tenders,” said Pandit.
The application from BFES was moved from state revenue, forest departments, which owned the land, and moved through the urban development, finance and school education department, BMC and DP Department of the BMC.
Anuradha Prasad of BFES said, “Society has offered to return both the plots. I have told the CM that if anything inappropriate is found in the land allotment, the state should take the plots back.
The society has not taken actual possession of land as it is encroached upon. And no activity has started on the land. We anyway intended to construct a school for needy persons residing there.”
However, the plans and documents show that BFES had entered into a joint venture with RIMS International, which runs schools and colleges in Mumbai and Pune, to start an IB or ICSE school. Also, the society has taken a loan of Rs5 crore from Central Bank of India against the plot.