RTI exposes a revenue loss of Rs25,000 crore in Maharashtra

Would you believe that Maharashtra loses over Rs25,000 crore annually because of carelessness or corruption, and this has not been exposed so far?

Are we really poor or are we thrust into poverty? The recent scams, which have been unearthed, give me a feeling that we may actually be quite well off with enough resources. If the lakhs of crores of public resources being given away and snatched away by the few were to come to the public exchequer, we could be quite comfortable as a nation. I have been pursuing one such scam in Maharashtra in which I believe a few thousand crores of public money is being lost to benefit a few.

 

Maharashtra’ debt is about Rs2.7 lakh crore, and we pay the interest for this. A state owns many resources on behalf of its citizens. One of these is land. Governments sell some of the lands and give some on lease. The idea behind giving certain lands on lease is to basically have an inflation-proof investment and sometimes, to encourage certain activities. Hence it offers lands on lease. It wishes to retain the land so that it may basically ensure that its revenue matches with the growth in inflation.

 

A lease is legal transaction, which primarily lays down the area that is leased, purpose for which the land is to be used, period of lease, lease rent and certain other conditions. When the lease expires, it may be renewed with the lessor increasing the lease rent as per the market price, which reflect the inflation in the intervening period.

 

When any individual or institution gives land or a property on lease and the lease expires, a fresh lease is drawn up at the prevailing market rates if the lessee wants to continue. This simple principle has not been followed in Mumbai and possibly in the state of Maharashtra. I have been told that this is true all over the country. Some leases are renewed while some are allowed to continue occupying the land at the old rates. What are the reasons for such irrational actions?

 

This may be due to carelessness or corruption.

 

I had discovered this in 2005 and drawn the attention of the chief secretary to this in a letter titled “Arbitrariness and huge loss of public money in public lands given on lease”. I have now got the scanned copy of the file relating to this which has over 600 pages over the years and has ended on a bizarre note.

 

The Supreme Court is the 2G case has said, “In conclusion, we hold that the state is the legal owner of the natural resources as a trustee of the people and although it is empowered to distribute the same, the process of distribution must be guided by the constitutional principles including the doctrine of equality and larger public good.” The poorest man who may be starving is an equal and rightful owner of this land, and it is necessary that the appropriate revenue is obtained for him. I looked at the list of leases of lands given by the two collectors of Mumbai (obtained in RTI) and decided to calculate the worth of the lands where lease deeds have expired and unauthorized occupiers are allowed to continue.

 

Let me first share the route the Maharashtra Government has decided to adopt after eight years of confabulations: The government has decided to offer the lands to the lessees at about 20 to 30% of the value! I am shocked at this irrational action of the government and think it is about time, citizens defend their revenue by telling the government they will not accept this approach. Below are the detailed calculations...

BOX:

 

Note on some assumptions in calculations:

I used the Ready Reckoner rates, which are for FSI of 1 (one). I checked with some renowned architects and builders and was told that the land value for the island city is reckoned at a FSI of 3 to 5 and for the suburbs at a FSI of 2 to 4, I therefore assumed land value at FSI 3 for the city and 2 for the suburbs. In the case of the suburban collector, when I could not get the value of the land from the Reckoner I took two leases which had been given. In 2007, for an access road Rs1,062 per sq mtr had been charged; I therefore assumed a rate of Rs1,200 per sq mtr in 2013 for access roads, playgrounds, etc.
 

For other uses, I assumed a rate of Rs5,200 per sq mtr since a lease had been given in Malad for a CNG outlet in 2009 at Rs5,348 per sq mtr. In the case of Mumbai collector, since usage has not been provided, I have assumed that the total rent would be less by 15% to take into account the open grounds/ playgrounds, etc.
 

My feeling is that the total figure, which I have arrived at is most probably an underestimate. I have assumed that the market would be willing to bid at least 7% of the market value of the lands. In this case the fixed lease rent would be payable for a period of about 30 years. Future escalations would be to the lessee’s advantage. 
 

On this issue I quote from the Supreme Court judgement in Matter No.C.A.No.5559/2001 JH Wadia v/s. Board of Trustees, Port of Mumbai, where it said, “The period between 1.4.1994 and 31.3.2000 is the bone of contention. The compromise proposals proposed 15% return for non-residential use and 12% return for residential use as the fair market rent on the estate value. The division bench of the High Court has directed these rates to be reduced to 6% and 4% respectively. Instead of our undertaking an exercise afresh as to what would be a fair and reasonable return to the Bombay Port Trust, it is sufficient to record that all the learned counsel for the parties excepting the Bombay Port Trust, have agreed that the lessees are prepared to accept the rates revised as 10% and 8% respectively.”
 

Based on this I feel a rate of 7% today is very conservative.


In the case of the information about leases provided by the Mumbai collector, in 103 cases there is no mention of the lease date and period of lease. Despite a specific query by me using RTI, the PIO has said they will need two to three months to provide this information!
 


There are also other government agencies like BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which have similar lands in Mumbai. My calculation (see box above) estimates that there is an annual loss of about Rs1,550 crore by Mumbai Collector and about Rs1,200 crore due to the suburban collector (see below), i.e. a total revenue loss of Rs2,750 crore every year.

 

The government now proposes to give away ownership rights to the lessees for Rs2,248 crore plus Rs1,841 crore onetime! Citizens must protest before the government dispossess us of our land and legitimate revenue.

 

If we can get the government to auction the leases in Mumbai and all over Maharashtra we could have a revenue stream of over Rs25,000 crore each year. Citizens and media need to make the government get the appropriate revenue by fixing lease amounts at current rates. Also this is a revenue stream which is partial hedge against inflation, saving future generations from having to pay ever higher taxes.

 

(Shailesh Gandhi served as Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act, 2005, during 18 September 2008 to 6 July 2012. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT-Bombay. Before becoming a full time RTI activist in 2003, he sold his packaging business, Clear Plastics. In 2008, he was conferred the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Award for civil liberties.)

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    COMMENTS

    Sadanand Patwardhan

    6 years ago

    Terrific work Gandhi.

    The Art of Do Nothing Corruption or (self) Aggrandisement through meditative silence.

    The ways of the masters are not easily knowable by the masses.

    Sadanand Patwardhan
    http://searchlight-is-on.blogspot.in/

    Chhanda

    6 years ago

    Such a tragedy! The govt. only tries to exhort more and more money from the ordinary citizens through more back-breaking direct and indirect taxes but will keep quite in the case of such huge revenue loss. I think it is time for a revolution.. we need to revolt against the misuse of our hard-earned tax money! At every opportunity, in whatever way. Soon the murmurs will become loud enough to ring throughout the nation and those in power will not be able to ignore it anymore.

    Bhamy Shenoy

    6 years ago

    What should be done to bring this scam to the national agenda? Similar scams must be going on in other states though may be of lesser magnitude.

    I am sure Shailesh Gandhi must be filing a PIL to stop this type of day light robbery.

    Bhamy Shenoy
    Mysore

    Additional Home Secretary on the edge to complete probe into tampering of 26/11 call log records

    There are three sets of records of the same call log from the police control room, reveals RTI filed by Vinita Kamte. This prompted the state CIC to direct the Additional Home Secretary to conduct a probe, pinpoint individuals responsible and submit a report by 10th June on the alleged tampering into call log records during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack

    Bad enough that call log records procured under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, of 26 and 27 November 2011, showed non-communication between the Police Control Room and the three officers on Ground Zero, which probably led to their killing by the terrorists. Vinita Kamte, wife Ashok Kamte, the Additional Commissioner of Police who was killed in the Mumbai terror attack, procured these records using the Right to Information (RTI).
     

    Now it is mysterious case of three sets of the same call log records of the South Control Room, Mumbai, including the one submitted in the charge sheet, which show three different timings, handwriting and contents of the Cama Hospital incident of 26/11. So, which one is the true and original? In order to find out the truth, Vinita had filed an appeal to State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) of Maharashtra.
     

    Last fortnight, SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad gave a stern order asking the Additional Home Secretary to carry out a probe. He stated that since this information relates to the applicant’s husband who is a martyr of the 26/11 terror attack, any discrepancy in information is a serious matter. Hence, it should be thoroughly probed and individuals pinned down in case there indeed has been tampering of the documents.
     

    Gaikwad, in his order stated that the hearing of Vinita Kamte’s appeal was to be held on 11 March 2013 but due to the absence of the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Mumbai Police and Additional Commissioner, the hearing was postponed. Finally, it was heard on 24th April wherein PIO Phansalkar and Additional Police Commissioner (Administration) ND Pawar were present. Vinita Kamte too was present. Pawar stated during the hearing that he was unable to answer as to why there is discrepancy in information in the three sets of the same call log records.
     

    Gaikwad then ruled that in order to establish that the information given to Vinita is not with any ulterior motive, malicious and deliberate, it merits an investigation into whether there has indeed been tampering of records. For this, the Additional Home Secretary should conduct a probe and pinpoint the individuals responsible for it, in case it has been established that there is a difference in the information given.  Additional Secretary, Home was asked to submit the probe report on 20th May but he has bought time. Now, the deadline has been extended to 10th June.
     

    According to reliable sources, the Additional Home Secretary’s office is in a tizzy and is trying its best to defend itself by proving that the call log records cannot be tampered with. However, since the three different sets of documents given by the Mumbai Police are certified copies given under RTI to Vinita, it would be interesting to see how it is going to tackle it and come out clean.
     

    Curiously, it is the the call log records pertaining to the Cama Hospital episode only in which ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner for Eastern Region, Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar were killed, the ones where you can see the brazen difference of timings (see the scanned document).  Vinita said she was awaiting the completion of terrorist Kasab’s case to bring out this discrepancy in public and so has raked it up with the SCIC, only after his hanging.
     


    Vinita Kamte in her second appeal states, “Since both the call log records pertain to the same channel i.e South Channel, there ought not to have been any difference between the two copies and both ought to have been the identical copies of the original call log register. However, the copies of both the said call log records received by me on 5 November 2009 and 18 February 2010 for the period from 26 November 2008 to 27 November 2008 differ in writing and in timings and in contents therein. In view of the aforesaid material discrepancies the respondents (Mumbai Police) ought to state as to which out of the said two documents (two call log records) furnished to me under the Right to Information Act, is the authentic one. It is thus evident that the public information officers, knowingly gave incorrect and misleading information to me and it is in these circumstances, that I have lodged the present complaint.”
     

    “It is submitted that prior to furnishing me with the information under the Right to Information Act, the said call log record of the South region was already included in the charge-sheet filed in the criminal case (Ajmal Qasab’s Case) …after coming to know that the call log records have been included in the charge-sheet, I obtained the copy of the call log records included in the charge-sheet… When the call log records included in the charge-sheet was compared with the said two copies of call log records received by me, I was shocked to note that there was a considerable difference in respect of the timings and the events even in the call log records included in the Charge sheet and the two sets received by me.”
     

    States Vinita, “Why should there be discrepancy in the timings of the Cama Hospital Incident? Was the ineptitude or mistakes committed by those manning the Control Room being covered? Are officers who tried to run away or who did not respond being shielded? There are serious questions that need to be answered. What were the reasons to tamper with the timings, if it was done?  Thorough inquiry needs to be conducted in this matter. I hope this matter is taken with the seriousness it deserves. I had kept quiet, keeping in mind the larger interest of the country, however, now that the hanging of kasab is over, we need answers to our questions.”
     

    Vinita’s demand with the SCIC:
    • It is submitted that the respondents be put to strict notice to explain and state which of the three call log records produced by them is authentic and correct. It is incomprehensible as to how there could be three different records which differ in timings and incidents/acts
    • It is further submitted that in the facts and circumstances of the present case it is necessary to inquire and investigate and fix the persons responsible for creating false records and for producing / furnishing false call log records to me and for initiating appropriate action against all such concerned persons
    • The Mumbai Police be directed to produce the original call log records
    • In the facts and circumstances stated hereinabove be pleased to take appropriate action against all the erring officers for creating and furnishing false call log records to me.





     











    (Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

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    COMMENTS

    Sadanand Patwardhan

    6 years ago

    An excellent summary of what transpired at the hearing. There are many unanswered questions, some quite unsavoury, about 26/11. Kamte seems to know something that others don't and she is tightening the noose around the falsehoods. Photocopiers are not known to produce different versions of the same material. But humans can tamper with the process.
    Sadanand Patwardhan
    http://searchlight-is-on.blogspot.in/201...

    Chandragupta Acharya

    6 years ago

    It is wonderful work by Ms. Kamte and excellent support provided by Moneylife Team. The truth about the number of dead in the 26/11 also needs to come out. It is unlikely that just 150-160 people died in the attacks. Why has the full list of the dead never been published?

    Sunil

    6 years ago

    I certainly hope that the truth comes out and M/s Kamte gets the correct answers.

    anantha ramdas

    6 years ago

    When such a mayhem was in progress, was there not automatic recording of phone calls?

    It is never too late to raise such issues of national importance - we have lost beloved sons in this fight against terror, but we cannot afford to be lax in such matters as keeping records and true accounts of what happened in those tragic times.

    Thanks Vinita for bringing this matter to public notice, and we need to take to task if there was any wrong doing anywhere..

    Defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma appointed as new CAG

    Sharma, who holds a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of York, will take charge as Comptroller & Auditor General on 23rd May

    Defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma was on Tuesday appointed as the next Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) at a time when the institution is under focus in the wake of controversies surrounding its mandate.

     

    The 61-year-old 1976 Bihar cadre officer will succeed Vinod Rai, during whose tenure the CAG was locked in confrontations with government on various audit reports, like the ones on 2G spectrum and coal block allocations.

     

    Rai superannuates on Wednesday after five-and-a half years of eventful tenure as the head of the Constitutional body.

     

    “The President of India has appointed Shashi Kant Sharma, IAS, as the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, in terms of Article 148 (1) of the Constitution of India,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

     

    Sharma, who holds a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of York, will take charge as Comptroller & Auditor General on 23rd May.

     

    He will be administered the oath of office by President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday.

     

    Like Vinod Rai, Sharma too has served as secretary in the Department of Financial Services. He has spent over 10 years in the defence ministry in various capacities.

     

    The CAG is appointed for a term of six years or till the incumbent attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

     

    Sharma's appointment comes at a time when the CAG has come under sharp attack from the government and ruling party for its reports on assessment of Rs1.76 lakh crore loss in allocation of 2G spectrum.

     

    Under Rai's tenure, the CAG was accused of going beyond its auditing ambit and indulging in analysing policy decisions.

     

    Rai, however had hit back saying the government just wanted the CAG to be an accountant.

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    COMMENTS

    Vinay Joshi

    6 years ago

    Mr. S.K Sharma for ten long continuous years was in MoD, overlooking all deals in the ministry.

    Is he now expected to examine his own ministry?

    Mr.Ramchandran, in which manner can 'YOU AVOID', & what is meant by 'WE', in your undermentioned statement?

    Instead of talking will you file PIL in the apex court? Under which provisions?

    Regards,

    ramchandran

    6 years ago

    what is the criteria for someone to be appointed to a post like CAG Head. We people need to be educated so that we can avoid government puppets being given such critical positions & individuals like Mr.Vinod Rai being appointed. We sincerely hope the new incumbent takes this new reputation which CAG has garnered under Mr.Rai to the next level

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