Times of India: Nagpur: Monday, March 27, 2017.
Who guards the guards? The answer is, apparently, no one. Government officers, who are supposed to enforce the laws, are themselves flagrantly violating it with full knowledge that their activities are illegal.
The Nagpur bench of Bombay high court had recently cracked down on illegal use of urban land ceiling (ULC) lands. Maharashtra Rashtrabhasha Sabha too was penalized for making commercial use of land leased out by Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT). Now it emerges that several institutions in the city are commercially exploiting nazul lands given to them for charitable purposes.
Officers' Club, whose members are senior state government officials, is illegally using the land provided to it by the revenue department. The land located in plush Civil Lines was given to provide sports facilities to its members. However, the club management headed by the top IAS officer of the city - divisional commissioner Anoop Kumar - rents out the lawns for marriages and other functions and earns a profit. This commercial exploitation is against the lease conditions.
Same is the case with Ladies Club, which too is located in Civil Lines. Its balance sheet of 2014-15 shows it earned an income of Rs 30.28 lakh by renting out the lawns.
The Nagpur chapter of Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) is also committing similar irregularities. It was given the Swagat Lawns land, also located in Civil Lines, for charitable purpose. The land is being used for marriage receptions and permanent constructions have been made on it. There are likely many more such lands which are illegally being exploited commercially.
These three lawns are being offered at quite high rates. Swagat Lawns charges about Rs 600 per guest for lawns/halls, decoration and catering, for one day. Ladies Club charges Rs 1.39 lakh while Officers' Club's basic rent is Rs 11,000 for the hall and Rs 34,500 for the lawn. The customer has to use the Club's decorator and caterer, whose charges are also quite high.
District collector Sachin Kurve admitted commercial exploitation of these lands was illegal and promised to take action. Divisional commissioner Kumar however, claimed there was nothing illegal in it. He even charged TOI with misquoting the collector.
Ramdaspeth resident Anil Wadpalliwar had lodged a complaint against these illegal activities way back in January 2013, with the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. The CM office had forwarded the complaint to Nagpur district collector. The assistant superintendent (revenue), Nagpur, had directed the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Nagpur on April 15, 2013, to conduct an enquiry in this regard. However, nothing came of it.
"I tried to find out the status of the enquiry but was always given vague answers. Then I sought information about it through Right to Information (RTI) Act. In April 2016 I was told by the Nagpur naib tehsildar that no information was available in this regard, which means that no enquiry had been conducted," Wadpalliwar told TOI.
The social activist said that government should get a fair share of the profit earned by these institutions. "If they are unable to run the clubs without commercial exploitation of land then government should take back the land," he said.