The horticulture department will take back 2.35 acres of prime land leased out to two private societies inside Lalbagh.
The decision to cut ties with The Nurserymen Cooperative Society and Mysore Udyana Kalasangha was taken on the grounds that they were making “huge profits” and paying only a “negligible amount” as renewal fees.
While The Nurserymen Cooperative Society occupies 1.65 acres, Mysore Udyana Kalasangha occupies 70 cents (28 guntas).
The two are private entities registered under the Societies Act. Barring a couple of officials, a majority of members in the societies are either private individuals or retired government employees. According to a document available with DH, the prime space was leased to the societies for 25 years.
While the Nurserymen Cooperative Society lease expired April 2016, the Mysore Udyana Kalasangha lease was extended by five years for an annual fee of Rs 25,000. That lease expired last year.
Taking land back
In an order issued on October 18, 2022, the state government has directed both societies to immediately return the land to the horticulture department.
The order also states that the buildings now being used by the societies should henceforth be used by the horticulture department. Any departmental employees deputed at the societies must be brought back, the government says.
The department had leased 1.65 acres to the Nurserymen Cooperative Society to promote nurseries in Bengaluru. The Udyana Kalasangha was working with the department to host the annual Lalbagh Flower Show.
The department now believes the societies are not serving the purposes for which they were set up. “About 95% of the work that goes into organising the annual flower show is carried out by the staff and officers of the department. In the future, the department should host the flower show without the interference of the Mysore Udyana Kalasangha,” the order states.
What is more startling is that The Nurserymen Cooperative Society, which is not a government entity, was bagging several government contracts under Section 4 (G) of the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements (KTPP) Act.
It was exempted from the tender process, and authorised to get contracts directly. The society is the biggest beneficiary of contracts from the BBMP, running into several crores. In a separate order dated October 20, 2022, the government has cancelled all exemptions given under Section 4 (G) of the KTPP Act to the two societies.
While office-bearers of Mysore Udyavana Kala Sangha refused to comment on the development, the nurserymen society was not reachable.
‘They were profiting hugely’
The massive loss of revenue to the horticulture department came to light when the societies requested renewal of their leases. Rajendra Kumar Kataria, principal secretary of the department, found that the government was in no way benefiting from such an arrangement.
“There are thousands of nurseries in the city. We found no logic in extending the lease in Lalbagh for just one entity,” he said, referring to the nurserymen society.
Senior officers said the annual flower show fetched close to Rs 9 crore but the profits went to Mysore Udyana Kalasangha, which is not a government body.
“There is a wrong impression that the two societies are run by the government. This is not so,” he said.