Scam may force Buddha to scrap IT township project

Kingpin Modis admission causes disquiet in government


Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

Blame it on a bitter intra-party feud that has seen the land and land reforms minister A Rezzak Mollah spilling the beans out in the open and skeletons in the cupboard have started tumbling out in the wake of arson and violence at Vedic Village, a five-star resort close to Rajarhat. After Housing Minister Goutam Dev raised questions about a possible illegal transfer of land to the resort owner, now in police custody, and indirectly indicted Mollah for his possible involvement in the dubious deal, the ‘superclean’ minister decided to hit back.

And the can of worms over a series of underhand deals involving purchase of land for the proposed IT township has been uncorked. At stake is Bhattacherjee’s dream project and also at stake are two big names in the IT world -- Infosys and Wipro - who would have been allotted land in the proposed township.

“I’ve acted in full compliance of the provision of the relevant law,” Mollah claimed at a crowded news conference here early this week. But the confession of Raj Kishore Modi, the resort owner, to police has given an unprecedented twist to the entire controversy. Even as Mollah sought to deflect off all criticism against him by asserting that 44.27 acres of vested land were handed over to the Village authorities at “an attractive price” and not at “rock-bottom price”( as was indicated by the housing minister), Modi confessed to police that he actually owned 125 acres and not 44.27.

Molla conceded later that he was saddened over the entire development and ordered a departmental inquiry on how Modi expanded his “land empire”.

The second admission

What has further shocked the mandarins at the Alimuddin Street (CPM state headquarters here) is Modi’s second admission that he was planning to hand over 500 acres of land to the West Bengal Information and Technology department which he has already acquired clandestinely. Some of the questions flying thick and fast are :a) who has given Modi the administrative go-ahead to acquire land and that too forcibly ? b) how can the state government authorise a third party to acquire land on its behalf and then sell it back to the government for the big-ticket project? c) who is benefiting from the deal ? According to a source, since the state government does not want to get entangled into any controversy over land acquisition in the aftermath of Singur and Nandigram, the state IT department decided to purchase it from a third party without ascertaining that the land they were to get from Modi was illegally acquired.

On Bhattacharjee’s discreet direction, top police officials have already unearthed from the resort premises a massive cache of arms and ammunition believed to have been used by the local mafia to coerce the farmers into selling the multi-crop land. What has further surprised observers here is that despite the state government taking a firm decision against acquiring multi-crop farmland, Modi’s henchmen had reportedly bullied the farmers into parting their land at a minuscule price.

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