The eagerly awaited next episode of 'expose' from the India Against Corruption (IAC) targeted, as widely expected, BJP president Nitin Gadkari.
The overcrowded press meet at the constitution club started with IAC convener Arvind Kejriwal asking, "Is BJP an opposition party or in connivance with the ruling party? Are Nitin Gadkari’s business interest clashing with those of the farmers?"
Then he introduced fellow IAC activist Anjali Damania from Mumbai, saying, "When Damania came across irregularities in irrigation in Maharashtra, she met Gadkari expecting support. She was shocked because he told her that, “We have good relations with Pawar. We do four favours to them, they do four favours to us...” When she told this to the press, Gadkari of course denied any relation with Pawar."
Kejriwal then produced documents to allege that Gadkari, in connivance with the Maharashtra government of the Congress and NCP, had cornered several plots of land in the state.
Is BJP in opposition?
Or are BJP leaders in bed with ruling parties?
Whose interests does Mr Gadkari represent?
Is there a conflict between the interests of Maharashtra farmers and Mr Nitin Gadkari’s businesses?
Is Mr Gadkari’s business flourishing in Maharashtra at the cost of dying farmers?
Anjali Damania learnt about the corruption going on in construction of irrigation dams in Maharashtra. She filed several RTI applications and exposed the scam. She filed a PIL in Bombay High Court in April 2012. Agitated by the scam, she met Sh Nitin Gadkari on 14th Aug 2012 to request him to take up the issue strongly.
She was completely shocked to hear Gadkari’s response. He said – “How could you expect us to speak against Mr Sharad Pawar? Chaar kaam wo hamare karte hain, chaar kaam hum unke karte hain.”
Mr Gadkari has denied any relations with NCP or its leaders. Anjali set out to find the truth. The investigations carried out by her and others in the last one month have given a glimpse into what are these “chaar kaam” that NCP has done for Mr Gadkari.
Details of “Chaar Kaam”
We attach herewith stories of two families from a village. Land in this village was acquired by Maharashtra government to construct dams. Land acquired was far in excess of actual requirements. According to rules, the excess land should either be returned to farmers or leased out to them for farming. Flouting these rules and despite repeated requests from farmers, the excess land was handed over to Nitin Gadkari’s organizations by Ajit Pawar, the then Irrigation Minister. This was also in violation of rules because land belonging to irrigation department cannot be transferred or leased to private organizations. When farmers protested, they were threatened by Gandkari’s henchmen.
Since Anjali set out on her investigations, Ghadge, the farmer from Umred, is being repeatedly threatened by Gadkari’s men. This morning, he called up Anjali and started crying as he could not stand the pressures.
It is well known that farmers in this region have been committing suicides in large nos. These dams have been constructed for providing water for irrigation to farmers in this region. Central Government has also been generous in granting funds for construction of these dams. However, almost the entire water is being diverted for power and sugar industry. For instance, in Umred taluka, Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam was meant to provide irrigation water to these farmers. This dam has just one canal, which is non-functional. So, there is no question of the water reaching the farmers for irrigation. Instead, the entire water from this dam has been permitted to be used by Nitin Gadkari’s firms and other industries in that area.
This is the story of almost all dams constructed in Maharashtra in the last few years. Almost the entire water from these dams is being diverted to power industries, which have mushroomed on the banks of these dams. Power industries need a lot of water. Ajit Pawar has diverted water meant for irrigation to power industry on large scale. These industries either belong to politicians from all parties or have strong political connections across all parties. Therefore, none of the parties wish to raise this issue.
Some people might argue - doesn’t the country need electricity? Even if the dam water is being diverted for producing power, what is wrong in it? We completely agree that the country needs power. But the water to power industry should be provided honestly and in a transparent manner. It is cruel to divert the water meant for irrigating the lands of dying farmers. Huge funds are sanctioned for constructing dams to save the dying farmers. In order to construct dams, their lands are forcibly acquired, making their condition further miserable. But finally, the water from these dams is completely diverted to some industrialists through deceit? Isn’t that wrong?
When the interests of farmers were being sold out to favorite industrialists, why was Nitin Gadkari silent? Why did he not raise his voice against it? Thirty-three new coal based thermal power projects have been given approval as of 2010 and another 38 are pending approval. When these 71 plants come up, they will need 2049 million cubic meters of water per year due to which there will be not a drop of water for irrigation in a region where farmers commit suicide every day.
Nitin Gadkari himself has five such power producing industries and three sugar industries in Maharashtra. And that is the reason why Nitin Gadkari did not wish to raise the issue of corruption in irrigation dams. In a short span, Gadkari has built a huge business empire in a short period with more than 15 companies in sectors including construction, sugar, distillery, power, coal, agro etc
Nitin Gadkari wrote a letter to Sh Pawan Bansal in central Government requesting him to release Rs 400 crores to contractors constructing irrigation dams. When this issue got highlighted in media, Gadkari said that he had written five such letters and would write ten more similar letters. He said that he wrote these letters because he was worried about the condition of the farmers and wanted that the dams should be constructed soonest. Did he write even a single letter to any government and request them not to divert farmers’ water to industrialists?
In some areas, Gadkari’s companies are a source of huge pollution causing inconvenience to local people. For instance, in Umred, Gadkari owns a power industry. Fly ash from this industry is polluting the air in that village causing breathing problems for the villagers. Likewise, flyash has been disposed in local river thus polluting the entire river. Despite repeated complaints from the villagers, obviously, no action has been taken by the government because the Gadkari has excellent relations with all parties in power.
In this short while, Anjali has been able to find out the above “chaar kaam” that ruling parties have done for Nitin Gadkari. If thorough investigations are carried out, many more such instances would emerge.
When Mr Gadkari receives a favor from the ruling coalition of Congress-NCP in Maharashtra in the form of irrigation dam water and farmers’ lands, what does he offer in return as quid pro quo? He mortgages the trust of the people of India. He assures them that as opposition, he would not allow his party to speak against ruling establishment’s corruption. He assures them that even if his party is forced to oppose due to media pressures or political compulsions, the opposition would merely be cosmetic. He is correct in saying – “How can we oppose them? Chaar kaam wo hamare karte hain, chaar kaam hum unke karte hain.” For him, politics is meant to enhance business opportunities rather than fight for people’s rights. Due to the inherent compulsions of his business empire, is it possible for him to head the main opposition party of India?
Is Mr Gadkari a businessman or a politician? A politician is expected to fight for aam aadmi. A politician is expected to fight against the injustice and corruption of ruling establishment. In that struggle, a politician is expected to face consequences. In sharp contrast, a businessman, due to the compulsions of his business, tries to keep all parties happy. So, can a big businessman ever be expected to honestly represent people’s interests?
It is strange that BJP has amended its constitution to accommodate another term for Nitin Gadkari.
(All related documents are in Marathi. We have uploaded these documents on our site. You can download them from www.indiaagainstcorruption.org)
The story of Gajanan Ghadge and other villagers
In Khursapur Village, Taluka Umred, District Nagpur in Vidarbha part of Maharashtra, the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam was sanctioned. Work began in 1982
A villager Gajanan Rambhauji Ghadge and his family lost 89.95 acres of land to the Dam. They were compensated at a mere Rs. 5000 per acre.
1982 - 1997
Only 23.5 acres of their land was directly used in the Dam project. During this period Ghadge and his family were tilling the balance 66.45 acres that was still not used and they grew soyabean, cotton and jowar.
In 1995 Nitin Gadkari’s owned Purti Power and Sugar Limited set up a power plant, a sugar mill and a distillery in the same village near the dam.
The Dam was completed and the entire submergence area was filled with water and he lost most of his land. However, there was nearly100 acres belonging to various villagers which was not utilized by the dam and was lying just outside the dam area. Out of this Ghadge’s portion was 12.5 acres which was still under his possession and cultivation.
1997 - 2007
Sub Divisional Engineer, Shri Parvat gave Ghadge permission to till 18.75 acres of unused land (out of which12.5 was from his original plot) and Ghadge continued tilling it for 10 years. (Exhibit 1 “paanpati slips”)
The villagers approached the government that they wanted to buy back the land that was not utilized but the government did not heed the demand. Ghadge wrote the CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, Minister Irrigation, Minister Land Revenue, Collector Nagpur and Nagpur Rehabilitation Officer, on 5 December 2000 requesting that he be returned at least the portion that was not submerged as they had no other source of income. (Exhibit 2 Ghadge’s letter to CM)
By a letter dated 28 January 2002 the irrigation department wrote to Shri Gajanan Rambhauji Ghadge that he must stop leasing and tilling the land as the balance land will be used for beautification of the dam and as a tourist destination. (Exhibit 3 Letter by Irrigation Department to Ghadge)
VIDC Resolution (Exhibit 4) – Unused land handed over to Nitin Gadkari
Nitin Gadkari, the then MLA and BJP Maharashtra President, wrote a letter to the Irrigation Minister, Ajit Pawar number 211 dated 4th June 2005. In the letter he requested that 36.51 hectares of unused, acquired land should be given to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha, Wardha (Gadkari’s organization) on a 99 year lease and he also recommended that the proposal of Gems of India for 11.27 hectares should be granted.
Within 4 days, on 8th June 2005 the Irrigation Minister recommended that this letter be tabled in the Vidarbha irrigation development Corporation (VIDC) committee meeting scheduled for 22 June 2005.
VIDC passed resolutions numbered 23/2 and 23/3 related to the land which had been acquired from the farmers but not utilized in Khursapur Village, Taluka Umred, District Nagpur in the Vidarbha part of Maharashtra, by the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam.
In resolution number 23/2 it was agreed 31.598 hectares of land which was acquired from villagers but not utilized in the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam should be given on lease by a “special grant” to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha Wardha. It was further decided that 5.36 hectares should be given to Gems of India Nagpur.
Handing over of land to Nitin Gadkari was illegal - In this committee meeting, it was clearly brought out that such handing over of land to Nitin Gadkari was in violation of a government letter No JAY1097/(309/97)/Mopra-2 dated 6 April 2005 wherein it was categorically stated that all the Irrigation Development Corporations should not lease or rent any additional land that has been with them for a prolonged period of time to private organizations. As per their rules no 19(2)(A) and no 28, made when the irrigation corporations were founded, it was stated that neither buildings nor land should not be rented, leased or sold to private organizations. The department secretary insisted that land should not be given in violation of these resolutions. However, Secretary’s objections were over ruled. Resolution 23/2 was passed unanimously. This resolution has been signed by the Irrigation Minister Shri Ajit Pawar and Irrigation Secretary Shri R M Landge
Possession of land had not been taken yet. The lower bureaucracy perhaps did not know about this transfer of land to Nitin gadkari. So, as per rules, on 29 September 2006 Shri Komawar of the Irrigation Department Vadgaon wrote to the Sarpanch of the affected village that the unused land owned by the government should be given to the farmers to till on a first come first serve basis. (Exhibit 5 Letter from Irrigation Department to Sarpanch)
28 November 2007 VIDC Resolution (Exhibit 6) – Further land handed over to Nitin Gadkari
VIDC passed resolutions number 8 related to the land which had been acquired from the farmers but not utilized in Khursapur Village, Taluka Umred, District Nagpur in the Vidarbha part of Maharashtra, by the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam and had been given on lease to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan Wardha.
It was discussed that 5.36 hectares was meant to be leased to Gems of India, Nagpur but the organization stated that they could not lease the land due to some difficulties and request VIDC to take it back from them. The committee discussed that the plot meant for Gems of India was adjoining the plot given to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan Wardha by the earlier resolution No 23/2. It was discussed that Shri Nitin Gadkari, BJP Maharashtra President had requested, vide a letter, that this additional 5.36 hectares should also be given to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan Wardha through a “special grant”. (Exhibit 6 )
Since it was already agreed to give away this 5.36 hectares, it was agreed that it would now be given to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan Wardha through a special grant in stead of Gems of India. This was passed under resolution no 32/8 on 11 October 2007.
This resolution has been signed by the Irrigation Minister Shri Ajit Pawar and Irrigation Secretary Shri R M Landge
On 6 June 2008 Ghadge and other affected villagers wrote to the local MLA stating that according to a Stage Government Directive, 1984, it was said that if land acquired by the Government was not utilized for 10 years it should be returned to the original land holders. They were not just original land owners, but they were also tilling the same land since 1982 and hence they said the land should be returned to them. They made the same request to the irrigation department. (Exhibit 7 Letter from villagers to the MLA)
On 21 June 2008 Sub Divisional Engineer Shri Komawar called Ghade to the field. When Ghadge went there, officials of Purti Group Shri Dive, Shri Jhade, and Shri Chafle were with Shri Komawar. They all informed him that the land he has been tilling has been given to the Purti group by the government and he should hand over the possession. He refused to do so saying that how can they take away land he has been tilling for 15 years without even a prior notice. Some of the Purti officials and their henchmen began threatening and intimidating him and Ghadge fled from there.
A few days later, when Ghadge was out of town, Purti people forcibly took possession of his land. They fenced the field that was lying ploughed and even planted soyabean overnight. On his return on 28 June 2008 he made a police complaint about the same. (Exhibit 8 Ghadge’s NC) Ghadge spoke to the MD of Purti but was threatened and told “do what you can” but you will not get the land back.
The Bhagat Family Story
Four farmers of family - Chabutai Bhagawan Bhagat, Sachin Bhagwan Bhagat, Ashish Bhagwan Bhagat and Manjulabai Shamrao Bhagat lost 9.68 acres land in 1984 as it was acquired for the Lower Vena Vadgaon Dam. Their land was not submerged and they have time and again requested various authorities that the remaining land should be returned to the original owners. (Exhibit 9 Letter To Sub Division Officer Umred from the Bhagat family)
They are tilling the same plot and like Ghadge their land too has been given to Purti by the irrigation department. They have withstood the severe pressure from authorities and the henchmen of Purti to relinquish their possession.
Division Engineer of the Vadgaon Porject wrote to the Bhagat family in a letter dated 20.01.2002 that though their land is not used in the dam it will be used by the Government for tourism purposes in the next year. (Exhibit 10)
However, the irrigation department then gave the land to Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sanstha Wardha for unknown purposes through a special grant.
The Damage to Ecology
Gram Panchayat Bela Village, Taluka Umred, Distirct Nagpur wrote to the Managing Director of Purti Sugar Factory in a letter dated 19.08.2007 saying that they must stop putting their waste products into the river immediately as it has totally polluted the water. This river is the source of tap water to the villages and the villagers refuse to use this polluted water and have to get water from outside. In fact the pollution is so much even animals refuse to drink that water. (Exhibit 11)
Jeevan Vikas Machimar Sahakari Sanstha Ltd, Bela which is a cooperative of fisherfolk has written to the Shiv Sena office and to Maharashtra Pollution Board on 22.07.2007 stating that they have taken the Vadgaon Dam lake on lease from the government for fish farming and have tried to rear fish by releasing eggs etc. But due to the waste products released from the Purti Sugar Factory, all the big fishes have died and the fisherfolk have lost lakhs of rupees. The water from the reservoir has further carried forward the pollution to the river and they in fact fear this water can even harm human life. The members of Jeevan Vikas Machimar Sahakari Sanstha Ltd are now facing starvation as they have lost their investment and their source of income. They have therefore demanded immediate action to end further pollution and compensate the damage done so far. (Exhibit 12)
Translation of important excerpts from documents
Forms – Water Tax documents of Gajanan Rambhauji Ghadge, which proves he was tilling the land
A letter to Chief Minister Vilakrao Deshmukh dated 5.12.2000 from Gajanan Rambhauji Ghadge.
“Sub: Request for tilling the land that is in our possession which has not been submerged in the lower Vena Vadgaon project.
“Now Wadgaon reservoir project has been completed since 3 years….From our submerged land some of the land is beyond the zero point of the reservoir and it is possible for us to till it. Hence we request that this land be measured and permanently be given to us for tilling as per the land records.”
Letter from the Divisional Engineer Bhandara in Vena Vadgaon Sub Division to Shri Gajanan Rambhauji Ghadge :
“You are aware the land belongs to the government and in the next year, we would use it for beautification of the dam as a tourist attraction. If any old owner of this land continues to forcible maintain possession, he will be responsible and the state will initiate appropriate legal action.
VIDC regulatory committee meeting dated 25.05.2006 - Resolutions passed during the meeting Resolution No 22/7
Subject No 2
Shri Nitin Gadkari, MLA and President of BJP Maharashtra wrote a letter no 211 dated 4 June 2005 about Vena Project, Village Khursapur, Taluka Umred District Nagpur, wherein he requested the Irrigation Minister that the excessive 36.59 hectare that were not utilized should be given on a 99 year lease to Purti Seenchan Kalyankari Sansthan, Wardha.”
“In the same subject vide a government letter No JAY1097/(309/97)/Mopra-2 dated 6 April 2005 all the irrigation development corporations are informed that activity of giving the land which is in excess of the dam projects on rent or lease to private organizations is not in accordance to the rules. The Manual of Irrigation Development Corporation states in its rules no 19(2)(A) and no 28, that buildings or land should be rented or sold as per previously formulated regulations and the prevalent rules governing the irrigation corporations. This was brought to the notice by the Executive Director.
There was a prolonged discussion on this. After the the discussion it was concluded that the sanction to this can be given provided the legal aspects have been given due consideration and resolution 23/2 was passed unanimously.”
It has been resolved in the excess land of Vena project, village Khursapur, Taluka Umred, District Nagpur measuring 31.598 hectares is given on 99 year lease by special grant to Purti Seenchan Kalyankari Sansthan after examining and in accordance of the the necessary rules.”
Letter from Shri Komawar of the Irrigation Department Vadgaon to the Sarpanch of the affected village dated 29 September 2006
“Subject: Excess land to be given on lease
The land in Vadgaon dam which is out side the submergence area can be made available for agriculture on 11 months lease rent and those who are interested should get in touch with the irrigation department. This land will be given on first come first serve basis.”
VIDC regulatory committee meeting dated 25.11.2007 - Resolutions passed during the meeting
“.. as per resolution 23/2 it has been agreed to give 31.59 hectares land on lease to Purti Seenchan Kalyankari Sansthan, Wardha and it is adjoining this land (5.36 hectares offered to Gems of India). There Shri Nitin Gadkari has requested vide a letter that the balance 5.36 should also be Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan, Wardha as a special grant. The regulatory committee passed a resolution that the 5.36 hectares that the 5.36 hectares land that was to be given to Gems of India, Nagpur now be given to Purti Seenchan Kalyankari Sansthan, Wardha after examining and in accordance of the the necessary rules.”
Letter dated 06.06.2008 to Local MLA from villagers
“Subject: Land that was claimed for Lower Vena Project but is unused should not be given to business organizations but returned to the original owners”
“The lower Vena Project Office did not give us our lands, instead going against the rules it was given, using Gems of India as a front, to an associate of Purti Sugar & Power Ltd - Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan, Wardha which is not from our district. We oppose the giving away of lands being tilled by us to an organization of a politician. It will be used to dump the waste materials of the Sugar plant making the now fertile land useless and ending our means of livelihood.”
“To The Inspector Police Station Bela
Applicant Shri Gajanan Bhauji Ghadge, Age 40, Business Agriculutre, Village Khursapur, Taluk Umred, District Nagpur.
Complaint against Shri Dive, MD Purti Factory, Mr Zade Engineer and Mr Chafle
Subject: Purti Sinchan Kalyankari Sansthan, Kursapur has without my permission taken the possession of land which I have been tilling since 15 years
At your service I present my application that I have been directly affected by Vadgaon Dam and have lost 99 acres of farmland. Some of my land which is not submerged and I have been tilling it for the last 15 years for the survival of my family.
Since 1997 I have made several applications requesting that this land should be given to me on permanent basis. I was replied that this land was kept back for beautification so it cannot be returned.
But the officer named Parvat Sahib, a sub divisional engineer on the dam, had given me this land for tilling and had also told me if required it would be taken back. Since then this land has been used by us.
On Saturday 21.06.2008 the sub divisional engineer Mr Komawar called me from his mobile phone and asked me to urgently reach the site. On reaching there I met Shri Dive, MD Purti Factory, Mr Zade Engineer and Mr Chafle who were waiting there with Shri Komawar and the latter told me to give up the land to Purti Factory. I told them I have been tilling the land and paying the tax regularly for the last 15 years. When I asked them for the reason of depriving me of this land the Purti officials and some henchmen stormed at me. I told them I have ploughed the land and without giving me notice you are asking me to leave the possession of this land but I regularly pay you the lease so i will not give back my land.
So the officers and I left the place. After this I have gone out of station for some important work and on my return i found out that the Purti people had planted soya bean in my ploughed land and also fenced it! This happened on a Sunday
On Tuesday I met the MD of Purti and I got a shocking threat that I can do what I like but I will not get my land.
It is my plea that you please get me justice.