Bring TDR scam culprits to book

The Transferable Development Rights (TDR) scheme first introduced by the Karnataka government in 2006 and later revised in 2017 with an intent to acquire private properties free of cost for developing infrastructure in Bengaluru is flawed and deserves to be scrapped forthwith as it has failed to meet any of its stated objectives. In its original form, the scheme had fostered an unholy nexus between corrupt Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officers and land developers, particularly between 2006 and 2015, with investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) unearthing large-scale irregularities in its implementation. TDR involves issuing of Development Rights Certificates (DRC) to the owner in lieu of the property acquired. These are virtual properties that can be bought or sold like any other immovable assets. In what could be a multi-crore rupee scam, BBMP officers are accused of having indiscriminately issued DRCs to the extent of 22 lakh square meters in Bengaluru to builders and developers, taking advantage of the loopholes in the old rules.

A common practice was to issue DRCs in Bengaluru for low-priced land acquired on the outskirts of the city without consideration of the comparative guidance value, in order to help certain developers make windfall gains. Another was to hugely inflate the value of acquired property. In some cases, DRCs were issued against certain properties without the real owners even being aware of it. This is only the tip of the iceberg and only a proper audit of the DRCs will reveal the exact extent of the scandal. This is, however, going to be an uphill task as the BBMP has maintained absolutely no record of the DRCs issued. The amended rules of 2017 stipulate that all old DRCs should be validated by the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA). Preliminary inquiries by BDA have revealed that these certificates were issued in such a cavalier manner that, in some instances, BBMP officers did not even verify the ownership details of the property while granting DRCs. Now, due to the glut of DRCs available in the market, many of them suspected to be illegal, the TDR scheme has been rendered infructuous as there are virtually no takers.

The scheme has lost the confidence of the people and it may be wise to pay monetary compensation for properties acquired so that infrastructure work which has come to a standstill can be completed. A scam of such a magnitude could not have taken place without the connivance and even the blessings of political bigwigs. The government should take the issue to the logical end so that the culprits are brought to book.

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