Tainted land deal for Baba Ramdev’s Food Park at MIHAN figures in Assembly

Nagpur: The “generous gesture” on the part of Fadnavis Government to allot 230 acres of land at throwaway price to Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved for setting up Food Park in MIHAN figured in State Assembly on the second day of Winter Session on Tuesday.

Giving a written reply, the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the land for the said Food Park was provided at the rate of Rs 25 lakh per acre. Work of the Food Park is progressing speedily. The project will provide jobs to local youths and will also give boost to produce of Vidarbha.

The Fadnavis, who is Chairman of the Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation (MADC), had said that the process was transparent and done after entertaining open bids.

However, a major controversy had erupted over the land deal. Baba Ramdev paid a little over Rs 25 lakh an acre — a Rs 75 lakh discount as Rs 1 crore was the original price fixed by MADC. The reserve price in the tender was fixed at Rs 25 lakh per acre and Patanjali is learnt to have bid at 5% above and will now get the land at Rs 26,25,000 per acre.

The deal drew flak from several political leaders as well as organisations. Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam even filed a PIL in Bombay High Court terming the deal a land scam and demanded it be cancelled. Patanjali Ayurveda was allotted 230 acres in Nagpur’s Mihan zone at Rs 25 lakh/acre when the prevailing rate was Rs 1 crore/acre, he said. Nirupam said, “Despite objections, the allotment went ahead. The government had already decided the land rate.”

He further said the government suffered a Rs 170-crore loss on the 230-acre allotment and stood to lose up to Rs 400 crore when all 600 acres were allotted. He added that as MADC Chairman, Fadnavis was responsible for clearing the waiver. In February 2016, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said the government would allot 600 acres of land to Patanjali even before tenders had been invited. Nirupam claimed the allotment was pre-decided by the BJP Government at the Centre and the state as “Baba Ramdev is close to BJP and had campaigned for them”. He also said forest land had been diverted for a food park in Mihan area.

Was there a lack of transparency in the Maharashtra Government’s decision to award land for a food-park to Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali, who got 230 acres at a 75 percent discount in Nagpur? A report in the media said that the award of the land to Patanjali was contested by the Principal Secretary for Financial Reforms, who was transferred close to three weeks after he questioned the method of the land allotment. His transfer happened over a year into his tenure which is generally three years.