CM should not allot G cat sites

Dr Ashwin Mahesh writes to the Chief Minister regarding the ongoing G category sites issue. He will be meeting him in the next few days to make a personal appeal to take immediate remedial steps.

Respected Chief Minister,

I write to you with considerable sadness, that a liked and respected politician today stands accused of unlawfully obtaining a G category site from the government. It is extremely unfortunate that we have reached this moment. I have known the Minister to be a good person, and I hope this allegation is not true. I hope there is a fair and tenable explanation to rebut what is said. At the same time, I urge you to take some steps to remedy the situation that has brought us here, so that we may not come to it repeatedly in the future too.

1. The intent of providing lands to people from BDA and other planning authorities is that those without access to home ownership in the cities should benefit from such allotments. In the past few years, however, this sound motive appears to have been completely forgotten. Extremely well off persons from other cities and villages claim that they have no land in Bangalore, and seek sites as a result. Many others from this region simply lie that they have no other properties. It seems there is no shortage of persons wanting to take advantage of the potential generosity of the state. Please direct the BDA and other planning authorities to develop a different logic for determining who the truly ‘needy’ persons are.

Karnataka Law Minister S Suresh Kumar was alleged of securing a BDA site under the government (G) category. On Tuesday he decided to withdraw his resignation which he had given on Saturday, after the advocate-general exonerated him of the charge that he had violated rules in securing allotment of a residential site.

2. This should remind us of another long-pending reform in municipalities and planning bodies, which can easily tackle much of this risk. These entities could easily keep a dossier of who owns which property. Why should BDA rely solely on declarations from applicants themselves that they own no other property in the city? After all the hype about e-registration and 15 years of IT in administration, we’re not able to crack a simple data-query problem like this. Please direct the authorities to establish an online, public database of all government holdings, updated annually; only this level of transparency and accessible record-keeping will keep indefensible allotments at bay.

3. We must also understand why corruption in allotment of land continues. It happens because of the evident difference in value between the allotment price and the true market price of lands. This is a clear distortion. It is also an insult, and nothing short of an attack on farmers in peri-urban areas who are routinely dispossessed to make sites for urban dwellings. Every one of our planning authorities in cities today is involved in this disgraceful arbitrage of land value between relatively poor farmers and relatively well-off city dwellers. This is a tragedy that has gone on for long enough in our country, and must be ended. I urge you to announce an immediate end to all discretionary allotments of land and other public assets – by you, your office, and by all offices of ministers in your government. I am confident these measures will help restore public trust in land management and governance in Bangalore and other cities. Many officials in government departments themselves have argued for such reforms for a long time, but have been sidelined or ignored all these years. It is time to heed the warning bells, which are now ringing all around us.

Respectfully,

Dr Ashwin Mahesh

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