New Delhi: Nearly 13 years after the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had cancelled the allotment of institutional land to 29 right-leaning organisations by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in Delhi, the Narendra Modi government has restored the allotment of prime plots of land to most of them.
The majority of the 26 plots, which have now been allotted, are situated on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in the heart of the city.
The BJP government under Vajpayee had made 225 allotments. These allotments were made between 1998-1999 and September 2004. Since of these 125 were made to government and political institutions, the subsequent Manmohan Singh government that came to power in 2004 did not question their allotment.
However, it did constituted a committee under retired IAS officer Yogesh Chandra to review the others. This one-man panel had subsequently recommended cancellation of the land allotment to 32 of the remaining 100 institutions that it believed had benefited due to their political affiliations.
Of these, 22 were affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or belonged to outfits backed by it such as Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Samarth Shiksha Samiti, Sewa Bharti and Swadeshi Jagran Foundation.
In all these cases, the committee had held that the allotments were made “without due regard to the stipulated procedure.” After much deliberation between the urban development ministry and the office of the attorney general on the issue, the UPA government had finally cancelled 29 of these allotments. Thereafter, three of these institutions had returned the plots while the remaining 26 had moved the Delhi high court against the order.
The matter kept hanging till the BJP returned to power, this time under the leadership of Modi. With a right-wing government back in the saddle, most of these religious and socio-cultural institutions once again felt emboldened and approached the Centre for restoration of the cancelled plots. Many of them had not given up the plots and had even opened temporary offices on them.
However, as the matter was sub judice, the ministry sought the opinion of the attorney general on whether it could review the cases. With the attorney general replying in the affirmative, the ministry went ahead with the process of forming a panel.
In December 2015, the Modi government formed a committee under former transport secretary L.K. Joshi to once again examine the issue of allotment of institutional land. The plan of action involved getting the panel to make a recommendation, putting it before the Cabinet and then sending a report to the high court.
The Joshi committee in its report to the urban development ministry on June 21, 2016 endorsed the cancellation of allotment to Asim Sen Spiritual Charitable Society, Sanatan Dharma Sabha and Gujarat Education Society but termed the cancellation of the remaining 26 allotments as “unjustified”.
It also recommended that the ministry withdraw the cancellation of the 26 prime plots in question. Subsequently, the ministry recently restored the allotment of these plots.