NMC ‘disregards’ HC, permits Symbiosis to go ahead with campus construction at ‘disputed’ land

Nagpur: The proposed campus of Pune-based Symbiosis International University in Nagpur seems to be hitting one controversy or another with each passing day.

First, it was the Nagpur Municipal Corporation’s “generous gesture” to allot its 75 acre land situated at Mouza Wathoda to the Symbiosis at ‘throwaway price.’ The land, worth around Rs 200 crore, has been given to the Symbiosis on lease at a nominal rate of Re 1 per sq ft/annum. Secondly, the NMC issued a letter of intent and also gave in-principle possession of the land to the university in January, much before the state government’s nod. The university even performed bhoomipujan on January 5 itself, drawing flak from several quarters. Thirdly, a visit by a team of Nagpur Today to the site where the proposed campus is being set up by Symbiosis University revealed that the land belongs to farmers. The farmers are reaping harvests at the ‘so-called’ land since many years. The Nagpur Today team found standing crops swaying to the gentle breeze at the land that is being tagged as given to Symbiosis University. A fact also got revealed that a signboard was installed at a land just beside the ‘so-called’ Symbiosis land showing the ownership of NMC as well as a person. Was the land being given to Symbiosis University is in possession of NMC or embroiled in any dispute?

Now, it is learnt that the Nagpur Municipal Corporation has given permission to Symbiosis University to go ahead with construction of its campus on its allotted land despite knowing that the original owner of the land has filed a petition in Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court. The contractor has allegedly started constructing compound wall at the “disputed land” sans necessary documents.

According to Padhye, the original owner of the land, the Nagpur Improvement Trust in 1954 had issued a ‘notification’ for acquiring 5323.20 acre land in Bhandewadi, Wathoda, Tarodi (Khurd), Tarodi (Buzurg), Bidgaon and at other adjacent places for ‘drainage and sewage disposal project.’ After receiving sanction for the ‘notification’ the process of land acquisition continued from 1955 to 1963. However, during the process the NIT came to know that land is being acquired well above the need. Subsequently, citing rules, the NIT had returned around 2200 acre land to original owners. In the said 5323.20 acre land, a land measuring 22.69 acre also belonged to late Ganesh Sitaram Padhye. But till to date neither compensation was paid nor the lane was acquisitioned. As a result, the family has fighting case in courts, running from pillar to post at concerned departments and at the same time reaping harvest of some low cost crops at the land.

The NIT, after returning the land (2200 acre) to original owners, transferred 455.26 acre land out of the remaining around 2500 acre land, to NMC for ‘sewage farm.’ This transferred land also comprised 22.69 acre land belonging to Padhye. According to Padhye, the then Special Land Acquisition Officer of NIT had on February 15, 1962, announced “award” of Rs 2850 only to Padhye towards compensation for entire acquired land. The “award” was also mentioned with that the matter regarding the acquisition of this land was pending in a tribunal. The “award’ money would be handed over to those on whose favour the decision of tribunal goes. Later, in 1962, the tribunal in its decision ordered to pay Rs 2000 out of the ‘award’ money to Padhye’s opponent and Rs 800 to Padhye himself. However, Padhye did not receive this amount hence he filed an appeal with the tribunal again and demanded hike in the ‘award’ amount. In 1966, the tribunal, deciding in favour of Padhye, ordered the NIT to pay him additional Rs 2255.25 along with the old dues of Rs 850.

However, despite the tribunal’s order, Padhye was not paid the amount. Hence he sent a letter to NIT on January 3, 1967 and reminded them about the tribunal order. He also demanded 6% annual interest on the pending amount. But the NIT disregarded the letter. Since then (Jan 3, 1966) the Padhye family did not receive the ‘award’ money in any for till to date. Therefore the three generations of Padhye family are doing farming at the said land from 1957 till October 3, 2017 regularly. On the hand, the Padhye family is continuing its fight in courts.

The High Court, after admitting Padhye’s petition, had issued to notices to district administration, NIT, NMC and Revenue Department.

Interestingly, despite knowing the matter being pending in High Court, the NMC has given permission to Symbiosis University to go ahead with construction work for its proposed campus at Wathoda land. On its part, the university in a hasty move handed over the construction work to two contractors without going through the documents concerning the said land. It is learnt that one of the contractors Niyati Engineering Consultancy started the construction activity from October 3, 2017 allegedly by “trampling the standing crops.” As the Padhye family came to know about the construction activity at “their” land, Gopal Ganesh Padhye as representative of third generation of the family along with his friend Chetan Rajkarne visited the site and confronted the contractor. A person named Sandip Gade present at the site office informed them that the construction work has been started on the directive of project chief of Symbiosis University. The contractor did not posses any document regarding the land.

Later, Padhye met the NMC’s Project Department chief Borkar but he raised his hands and pointed finger to Estate Department. When Padhye knocked doors of Estate Department, he was informed that the land has not been transferred as yet. Enraged by the NMC administration’s flip-flop attitude and commencement of construction work the Padhye family is contemplating to lodge a complaint with Nandanvan police in this connection.