Islamabad, Monday, November 08, 2010
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Yet another land scam ready to hit India’s Defence establishment

From Christina Palmer

New Delhi – While the Indian Army remains under constant embarrassment and humiliation across the world due to continuous emergence of corruption by its Generals, yet another corruption scandal in India’s Defence establishment is emerging and this time it involves Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, reveal the findings of the investigations of The Daily Mail.

These findings indicate that the Indian Defence Ministry is initiating an inquiry into yet another suspected land scam involving acquisition of disputed land at Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and Faridabad, Haryana, around a decade back through a developer, by the Air Force Naval Housing Board (AFNHB) for construction of farmhouses for Armed Forces officers.

The Daily Mail’s findings reveal that the project involves around 180 acres of prime land in Noida and about 40 acres in Faridabad, the market value of which is now said to run into hundreds of crores of rupees. A portion of the land in dispute was alleged to be “Bhoodan” land not meant for sale. “Bhoodan” land historically refers to excess land surrendered by their owners for distribution by the government to landless farmers.

“A probe is likely on eight counts in the case. The Ministry of Defence has already taken up the matter with the Navy and the Air Force,” top defence ministry sources told The Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail’s findings further indicate that the Indian MoD is ascertaining how the land was acquired and any possible collusion between top-level military officers then serving and property developers. The role of a former naval chief could also be investigated in this regard, the sources said. The AFNHB was set up years ago to cater to the housing needs of Air Force and Navy personnel.

These investigations reveal that the issue has been under litigation in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi for several years while serving and retired officers are running from pillar to post as they had invested lakhs of rupees in the project. Some of them have even written to the Central Vigilance Commission. The acquisition of the land took place in the mid and late-1990s.

Highly credible sources in the AFNHB told this scribe that a dispute was on in the case but expressed confidence that the matter would be resolved amicably. “We have held four meetings with allottees recently and are hopeful. The land in question was acquired earlier through a developer,” a source said.

The allottees are desperate to take possession of their land and houses or else at least recover their hard-earned money. “For construction of a small farmhouse on a one-acre plot, the total cost of land and construction of dwelling was `6.8 lakh in the mid-1990s. I am an allottee and have sunk millions of rupees of my hard-earned savings in the investment but have not yet been given possession since the land is disputed and under litigation,” said a former Air Marshal who did not want to be identified. In fact, the allottees have also petitioned Defence Minister A.K. Antony and met him twice in the past two years, the sources said. The Indian MoD swung into action and has examined the case in great detail, the sources added.

The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that this new scam is likely to add to the embarrassment of the Indian Armed Forces and the Defence establishment, which is already reeling under the impact of the Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai and the Sukhna land scam in Bengal.

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