Jan 26, 2022

UP government orders probe into Ayodhya land deals near temple, seeks report in a week

UP government orders probe into Ayodhya land deals near temple, seeks report in a week

Special Secretary, Revenue, told to look into records revealed by The Indian Express investigation

Lalmani Verma, Shyamlal Yadav, Sandeep Singh
Indian Express
December 24, 2021

On the day The Indian Express published an investigative report that elected public representatives and relatives of state government officials bought land parcels in Ayodhya after the November 9, 2019, Supreme Court verdict clearing construction of a Ram temple in the district, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered an inquiry into transactions and sought a report within a week.

Confirming this, Manoj Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue), Uttar Pradesh, said, the Chief Minister has sought a report with relevant documents in the next 5-7 days. “Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has taken cognisance of the newspaper report. An inquiry has been ordered on his directive. An officer of the rank of Special Secretary has been asked to conduct the probe,” Singh told The Indian Express.

An official said Radhey Shyam Mishra, Special Secretary, Department of Revenue, has been asked to conduct the probe.

The investigation by The Indian Express of land records has found that at least 15 buyers of land parcels in Ayodhya included local MLAs, close relatives of bureaucrats who have or are serving in Ayodhya, and local revenue officials whose job was to authenticate land transactions.

One set of these transactions raises further questions of propriety and conflict of interest given that the seller in three cases, the Maharshi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust (MRVT), is under scrutiny — for alleged irregularities in purchase of land from Dalit villagers — by the very same officials whose relatives bought the land.

These three officials are MP Agrawal, Divisional Commissioner, Ayodhya, since November 30, 2019; Purushottam Das Gupta, who was the Chief Revenue Officer of Ayodhya between July 20, 2018, and September 10, 2021; and Deepak Kumar, who was Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) between July 26, 2020, and March 30, 2021.

MRVT had acquired 21 bighas (about 52,000 sq m) from a dozen Dalit families using a Dalit person Ronghai employed with the trust as a conduit for just Rs 6.38 lakh. Its value at the current circle rate varies between Rs 4.25 crore and Rs 9.58 crore.

The other 12 elected representatives and officials who either bought land themselves or whose relatives bought land are: Ayodhya Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay, Ayodhya city MLA Ved Prakash Gupta, Gosaiganj MLA Indra Pratap Tiwari (now disqualified), then District Magistrate Anuj Jha, State Information Commissioner Harshvardhan Shahi, OBC Commission Member Balram Maurya, former Sub Divisional Magistrate Ayush Chaudhary who is now in Kanpur, Circle Officer, Provincial Police Service officer, Arvind Chaurasia who is now in Meerut; retired IAS officer of UP cadre Umadhar Dwivedi, Kanoongo of several villages including Ganja Sudhanshu Ranjan, then Lekhpal of Ganja village Badri Upadhyay, and Dinesh Ojha, Peshkar of Bhan Singh, Assistant Record Officer, who is hearing cases against MRVT.

The total land bought by the 15 individuals, according to records, is 70,826 sq m, about 17 acres.


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