Lonavla land mafia took us for a ride: IRB

ByAbhay Vaidya

Mumbai-based IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd, which has suffered a serious setback in its attempt to develop a mega township off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, has claimed that it was cheated by brokers and middlemen while acquiring land in Maval taluka of Pune district.

While the company was planning a township of nearly 1,400 acres near Kamshet off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, more than 90 land acquisitions by IRB’s real estate subsidiary Aryan Infrastructure Investment Pvt. Ltd. in village Pimploli became controversial in 2009.

Aryan Infrastructure was accused of indulging in serious irregularities, manipulation of land records and attempting to grab government and private land. While the acquisitions began around 2007, this controversy intensified in 2009 after it was pursued by the Talegaon-based RTI activist Satish Shetty who was brutally murdered in January 2010.

Screengrab of IRB website

Shetty’s crusade and his formal complaint of October 15, 2009 at the Lonavla police station led to an enquiry by the Land Registration Department which validated his findings. Three top officials of IRB including its chairman and managing director Virendra Mhaiskar, head of real estate Deepak Gadgil and head of liasoning Jayant Dangare have come under CBI’s investigation into the murder.

In an interview to Firstpost, IRB spokesperson Manoj Chaudhari acknowledged that serious irregularities were detected in some land acquisitions in Pimploli village and that the relevant sale deeds were promptly cancelled. He claimed that the company relied on agents and middlemen for its land acquisition and was cheated in the process.

“Our core business is that of constructing roads and collecting toll. The township project at Pimploli was our first real estate venture which involved land acquisition on a large scale. We had no choice but to rely on agents and middlemen for our land acquisition since it was happening on a large scale,” Chaudhari, IRB’s chief of corporate communications said.

According to him, the moment irregularities were detected in some transactions, the sale deeds were voluntarily cancelled by the company to set the record straight. Chaudhari cited the example of three sale deeds in Pimploli village where it was detected that the land owner was not a farmer as stated but the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). “The moment this was detected, we cancelled the sale deeds,” he said.

“We were new to the real estate business and it was due to our sheer inexperience that we were cheated by land agents,” Chaudhari said. He, however, did not present any record of the company having filed police complaints against land agents who had allegedly cheated and misled IRB in the Pimploli transactions. Government records show that more than 90 sale deeds entered into by Aryan and involving lands at Pimploli stood cancelled because of various irregularities.

IRB, in 2007, had announced plans to develop a mega integrated township on approximately 1,400 acres of land at Mauje Taje and Mauje Pimploli villages in the Maval taluka of Pune district. The plan included development of IT parks, a business complex, a sports complex, residential and recreational facilities.

Shetty had demanded that criminal action against IRB’s subsidiary Aryan Infrastructure, Jyo Development Corporation and the farmers concerned who were involved in the allegedly fraudulent land acquisitions which were subsequently cancelled. He had pointed out that there had been an attempt to grab government land including those belonging to the MSRDC and the National Highways Authority by manipulating land records. A senior RTI activist in Pune pointed out that the Maharashtra government has not acted firmly in this land scam and action was taken just against sub-registrar Ashwini Kshirsagar who was suspended. The question being asked is why no attempt was made to detect and prosecute the real beneficiaries of this fraud.

Published Date: May 24, 2012 05:20 pm | Updated Date: May 24, 2012 05:20 pm

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