Citizens' Issues
'My name is Nathu Gaikwad. I may not be literate, but I used the RTI Act to get back land taken by land sharks'

This is the story of a villager who has been fighting against land sharks in Pune district. He has used the RTI Act in his struggle to get back 74 acres that was fraudulently taken by three businessmen, in connivance with land records officials, and in total disregard of a high court order to restore the title to the rightful owners

The changing of ownership titles of large tracts of land in Mulshi and Maval talukas, in Pune district, without the knowledge of original title holders, most of them farmers, to build resorts and farmhouses for the urban rich, is a scandal that has been going on for over a decade.

A few years back, superstar Amitabh Bachchan made the headlines in one such deal, when he purchased land in Maval taluka on the basis of a certificate given by the district collector of Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh, stating that he owned agricultural land there since 1982, which gave him the status of a farmer. Mr Bachchan subsequently returned the land to the Pune district collectorate, free of cost, requesting the collector to return it to the original farmers.

There are several land swindlers who have been engaged in changing original land titles in connivance with revenue officials at the taluka level and selling these properties to urbanites, who may not be aware of the scam. Hundreds of original title holders, mostly innocent and ignorant farmers have shown utter helplessness at the hands of this land-snatching mafia.

Nathu Sakharam Gaikwad, one such victim, has-without paying even a naya paisa of bribe to any government officer-bravely fought to retrieve 74 acres of land in Sadapur and Dongargav villages of Maval taluka, that was fraudulently transferred in the names of three Pune businessmen Surendra Anand, SN Birdi and SS Gokhale. The original landowners are members of his son-in-law's family-Ram Maruti Ghare, Ganpat Maruti Ghare and Laxman Maruti Ghare. The struggle to reclaim the rightful title to his son-in-law's family began in 1986, and was successful in 2010, thanks to the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Strangely the title of the land still eludes them.

Says Nathu Gaikwad: "In 1986, I came to know that the land title of 74 acres belonging to my son-in-law's family was deleted from the land records office without informing them. Their signatures were forged and the new title owners were Anand, Birdi and Gokhale. I soon found out that our family members were not the only victims, but that these businessmen had allegedly indulged in similar fraudulent practices in the case of several original title owners and grabbed vast tracts of land.''

Mr Gaikwad visited the tehsil office, the Pune District Collectorate, as well as the Pune Divisional Commissioner's office several times, but none of the officers entertained him. Finally, he knocked at the door of the high court, which gave a verdict in 1988 in favour of his son-in-law's family, directing the divisional commissioner to retain the original title of the land.

"However,'' says Mr Gaikwad, "to our utter disbelief, after about three months, the high court order was thrown to the winds by a letter from tehsildar of Maval stating that the land title should be reverted back to Anand, Birdi and Gokhale, as the matter was pending in the district court.''

Mr Gaikwad again went from pillar to post trying to meet officials in the collector's office and the divisional commissioner's office. "We were asked to give bribes if we wanted our original title back. Some land estate agents also approached us, saying that we should ask for adequate compensation as the land title is now a foregone conclusion. We decided to fight it out without bowing down to any threats or paying any bribes.''

Finally, after a long wait, it was the RTI Act that turned out to be Mr Gaikwad's saviour. "I had never used this Act, but when I came to know about its power, I invoked section 6 of the RTI Act and asked for a copy of the official communication from the tehsildar's office which had superseded the high court order and the document showing that the matter was resting with the district court, on the basis of which the land title was transferred back to the three businessmen.''

He filed an application with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of Maval taluka on 8 July 2009, then made his first appeal before the tehsildar (appellate authority) on 30 September 2010. Quite predictably, the PIO in the Pune District Collectorate, as well as the appellate authority, denied information to Mr Gaikwad, saying that the relevant papers were "missing".

Undeterred, Mr Gaikwad filed a second appeal before State Information Commisisoner Vijay Kuvlekar, on 18 May 2010, protesting against the "missing'' papers and the violation of the high court order. Mr Kuvlekar ordered the officer to produce the papers to prove why the land title was changed despite a high court order, and to establish that the matter was pending with the district court. If the papers were not available to show proof, the divisional commissioner should file a criminal complaint against the officers responsible for these vital "missing papers'' and for indulging in change of title without "proof''.

As a result of Mr Kuvlekar's order, the big lie was revealed. The supposed letter written by the tehsildar, overruling the HC order, turned out to be fake and forged. Also, a document which claimed that the matter rested at the court of Joint Civil Judge, senior division, Pune, was also a fake.

The land title has not yet been returned to the Ghare family and Mr Gaikwad is continuing his fight for it. Pune's RTI activists, led by Vijay Kumbhar, are helping him to take the case onward to a logical end. Mr Gaikwad's struggle is an example for all who are victims of land-grabbing and to use the RTI route to get vital information that is critical in battle.

Vijay Kumbhar, the RTI activist, says: "RTI activist Satish Shetty was killed because of the information he procured of massive land scams in Talegaon and Lonavala. The land sharks in Pune district are ripping off original land titles, but if more and more farmers invoke the RTI Act, just like Mr Gaikwad has done, it will go a long way to curb this fraudulent practice that has reached gigantic proportions.''

Mr Gaikwad's almost single-handed fight, is proof (if ever one was required) of how the Right to Information empowers all citizens, including those who may not be literate in the conventional sense of the term.

(Vinita Deshmukh is a senior editor, author and convener of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected].)



yallesh rangapure

5 years ago

this useful information must be shared with every indian. Sarakri babus treat general public like thier slaves. Now, no mercy be shown to them. thanks, nathu you have given great inspiration.

Pradeep Hattangadi

5 years ago

Hats off to Mr. Nathu GAikwad for his persistence. The media should be highlighting these kind of cases so that public is enlightened about the benefits of RTI. Instead the media use RTI to collect information add some of their interpretation and then sensationalise issues. Kudos to Moneylife for having brought out this article

Nagesh KiniFCA

5 years ago

We need many more aam admis in the mould of Nathu Gaikwads and Vinita to make right and effective use of the RTI Act to rectify the wrong perpetrated.All the best to them.


5 years ago

Wow. Congratulations to Mr. Nathu Gaikwad. Truly inspiring. Great article by Mrs Deshmukh once again on how to effectively use the RTI Act.

Nitin Kirtane

5 years ago

Very interesting article by Mrs Deshmukh and hats off to nathu for persisting and getting his land back , how many poor farmers might have lost their land to these builders is unbeleivable , keep up the good work , mrs d

Kalmadi's 'Cartoons': How Mani Shankar's red flags in 2007 about Kalmadi's dictatorship in CWG were ignored – I

Mani Shankar Aiyer wrote letters to the prime minister complaining about Suresh Kalmadi. According to documents procured by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Mr Kalmadi labelled Mr Aiyer and sports ministry officials as 'cartoons', for objecting to his dictatorship in the CWG

The Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010 is history, and following the exposure of various frauds, its organisers are cooling their heels in Tihar Jail, even after many responsible persons, including the prime minister claimed ignorance about the offence. However, according to documents procured by Subhash Chandra Agrawal, using the Right to Information (RTI), Mani Shankar Aiyer, former minister for youth affairs and sports, informed the prime minister about the spiralling cost of the CWG and the dictatorial ways of Suresh Kalmadi, who was chairman of the Organising Committee (OC) for the CWG. A copy of the documents is with Moneylife.

The letters written by Mr Aiyer to the prime minister were known. However, the documents procured by Mr Agrawal show how specific the minister was in his communications and the noting by all concerned persons on these letters. Yet, all the warnings were ignored by the authorities, including the prime minister and the prime minister's office (PMO), and this inaction led to one of the biggest frauds that the country has witnessed.

In a letter to the prime minister on 25 October 2007, Mr Aiyer said, "Finding that even the presence of a mere two Secretaries to the Government of India (GoI) in the Executive Board is an impediment to the virtually dictatorial functioning of the Chairman (Kalmadi), he is increasingly resorting to establishing sub-committees of the Executive Board which exclude the Government nominees, take decisions endorsed by the Chairman alone and without referring even the minutes to the (Sports) Ministry. If I may mix my metaphors, the Chairman sees the Ministry as a milch cow to extract as much money as he can and a rubber-stamp to endorse every spending decision he takes, however outrageous."

In order to silence his critics, Mr Kalmadi used various methods. One of the best examples of this was Mike Hooper, the chief executive of CWG Federation, who had criticised the organisation of the Games in New Delhi. According to Mr Aiyer, the Organising Committee chairman (Kalmadi) signed a contract with Mr Hooper and appointed him as an international consultant at a cost of Rs1.5 crore to Rs2 crore. "Unsurprisingly, Hooper has been converted overnight as it were, from a trenchant critic of our arrangements to an avid enthusiast," Mr Aiyer said.

Taking exception to Mr Kalmadi's comments about himself and his ministry in public places, Mr Aiyer said, "I thought if I kept out of the picture and left it entirely to my officials to handle matters in the Cabinet Secretary's Committee and the Executive Board of the Organising Committee, personality clashes could be avoided. But abuse and scorn continue to be heaped at the Ministry in public statements made by the Chairman who stoop so low as to describe us as 'cartoons sitting in one room in Shastri Bhavan'."

In another letter written to the prime minister on 9 March 2006, Mr Aiyer also raised several questions over the vast gap between the original expenditure projections given in 2003 and projected figures of expenditure in 2006 of the CWG and overall lack of transparency and responsibility from the Organising Committee.

"The gap is not only gargantuan, it also seems to be growing. As against the figure of Rs150 crore for physical infrastructure projected in 2003, current estimates have been ramped up to over Rs5,000 crore. On the organisation of the Games, the 2003 expenditure projection of Rs250 crore has already been ramped up to nearly Rs900 crore," Mr Aiyer wrote.

The Union Cabinet also allowed the sports ministry to bid for the Asian Games 2014 on the basis of relatively modest expenditure projections given in the note in 2003. However, Mr Aiyer felt that the prospective bid for the Asian Games was being used to justify the vast gap between earlier and current (in 2006) projections for the CWG. He said, "There seems to be a desire also to build up a campaign for the Olympic Games, even perhaps as early as 2016. All these ambitions are feeding on each other to justify an expenditure of tens of thousands of crores of rupees."

Citing the example of the Asian Games held in 1982, Mr Aiyer said he consulted with, Buta Singh, then minister of state for sports, and Raja Bhalinder Singh, who was the president of the Indian Olympic Association at the time. The Special Organising Committee (SOC) saw three chairpersons-Vijay Malhotra, VC Shukla and Buta Singh-and under all the three, the IOA president was just a special invitee on the Organising Committee. The minister in charge, who functioned with financial and organisational autonomy, headed the SOC. This is in clear contrast to the supervisory role given to the sports ministry for the CWG 2010, compared with its more more autonomous role during the Asian Games in 1982. The Asian Games cost the exchequer under Rs55 crore, he pointed out.

Mr Kalmadi, reportedly said that the proposals for raising funds for the CWG were flawless and bankable as well. Replying to the 'bankable' theme, Mr Aiyer proposed that Mr Kalmadi should seek to raise money from the open market. In the letter to the prime minister on 25 October 2007, Mr Aiyer said, "My Secretary, has, suggested that since the Chairman of the Organising Committee (Kalmadi) believes his proposals to be 'bankable', it might be best for him to raise the required finances in the open market rather than have Government fund his demands and then be held responsible before Parliament." However, despite placing the suggestion before the cabinet secretariat and the PMO, the sports ministry did not get any responses.

(This is the first part of a two-part series. In the second part tomorrow, read about how Mr Kalmadi inflated CWG budgets.)





5 years ago

Mr.Manmohan passing the time to complete his term. His only work is to see the tie up with USA is in tact. Some case refered by CBI lying pending for years togather. He is afride of taking action against his fellow cabinet ministers. We need active prime minister.


5 years ago

Dr Manmohan Singh has 'incompetence' written all over his august face. Time he steps down. If he does not think it fit to investigate such trenchant observations by a cabinet colleague, he needs to step down. Possibly his role needs to be investigated by the courts. Who else gained apart from the Kalmadis and the Rajas, thanks to this magnanimous incompetence?

NS Rajan

5 years ago

Once, the famous leggie B.S.Chandrasekhar was repeatedly frustrated by an overseas umpire refusing to give a batsman out to even clear dismissals. Finally he succeeded in clean bowling the batsman,turned to the umpire and asked 'howzat'. The umpire,taken aback,said 'he is bowled!'. Chandra said 'I know he is bowled. But is he 'out'. In this report the PM was 'alerted' but was he 'aware'?


5 years ago

He is the worst sleeping Prime Minster India as ever seen ... it was face off when India gave wrong 50 most wanted to Pakistan .

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