Leprosy centre denied lease renewal

Leprosy centre denied lease renewal

Social Welfare Department alleges unauthorised construction on 63-acre land

The Leprosy centre was given on a 30-year lease in 1977 for the rehabilitation and relief of leprosy-afflicted patients and physically handicapped destitutes and their families.

Having parted with 123 acres of land meant for rehabilitation of beggars to the Bangalore Development Authority, the Social Welfare Department doesn’t want to lose another chunk of its land.

The main reason cited by the officials in the Department for refusing the renewal is the breach of agreement by the Centre. They alleged that the Centre has constructed buildings on the land unauthorisedly.

Breach of agreement

A report prepared in 2006 after a survey of the land stated that care of HIV patients, a school, building for underprivileged children, a creche, garage were outside the purview of the agreement.

The construction of housing quarters for the staff on the campus  were unauthorised and the Centre had not taken any prior approval for the construction, the report maintained. The report also alleged that buildings were built in a scattered manner to take up as much land as possible.

The Department is learnt to have issued a notice to the Leprosy Centre a couple of months back, citing structural violations. The report revealed that the number of leprosy patients have dropped over the years and there are hospitals nearby equipped to treat them.

In addition, the buildings did not occupy more than five acres of land and hence, the Centre would not require renewal of lease for the entire 63.02 acres.

The renewal of the lease is also the matter of a PIL, which is being adjudicated by the High Court.

“We already have a government order and budget allocated for our plan to build hostels for the SC/ST community and also for the backward class sector,” an official said. Besides, the Department plans to shift government offices presently functioning from the rented places, the official said.

However, Director of the Leprosy Centre Fr George Kannanthanam denied the allegations made by the Department. “There is absolutely no violation of any rules. The terms of the agreement allowed us to take care of leprosy-afflicted and such other destitutes. There is no one on the campus that we are taking care of who is not a destitute or a leprosy patient or their families,” he said.

The deputy commissioner in 1977 allowed conversion of 20 acres of land, in effect giving them permission to put up structures, Fr Kannanthanam said. “We are taking children from outside the school. But, they are underprivileged and the tuitions are free. There is not a single commercial activity on the campus,” he rebutted. He said the Department had never raised the issue with them.