Politics

Kejriwal Government Covered up Major Land Scam, Alleges Prashant Bhushan

Joshil K. Abraham (centre) and Prashant Bhushan at a press conference in Delhi. Credit: Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

New Delhi: Swaraj India leader and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, along with an assistant professor of G.B. Pant Engineering College (GBPEC) Joshil K. Abraham on Thursday, April 27, alleged major irregularities by the Delhi government in the allocation of prime land worth thousands of crores and belonging to the college to an autonomous body, Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIIT-D). They charged that when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s anti-corruption adviser in his report acknowledged that “misrepresentation of facts” was proved and demanded that the matter be inquired, the government chose not to act.

Speaking before the media on the issue at the Press Club of India, Bhushan accused the Kejriwal government of not only denying basic facilities to the students of GBPEC but also of turning a blind eye to the scam after it was exposed in October.

Bhushan said, “in 2007, then chief minister Sheila Dikshit announced that a state of the art world class G.B. Pant Engineering College would be set up and apart from providing world class infrastructure to the students it would offer advanced degree courses to them.”

But ten years on, he said, the students are studying out of an old abandoned polytechnic hostel where the classes are held and there are hardly any facilities which the government had boasted of.

He said when the students and the teachers raised this issue, an investigation revealed that while the college initially had about 65 acres of land, 17 acres out of that had disappeared and it was now left with just 48 acres.

He also questioned the approach of the Kejriwal government saying when Gopal Mohan, adviser, anti-corruption to the CM, had himself noted way back on October 31, 2016, that 17 acres of college land was missing, why was nothing done. “It is clear that this government is not serious about fighting corruption or improving education,” he said.

An investigation had revealed that the land had been transferred to IIIT-D. In a letter to the principal secretary TTE on May 23, 2016, Mohan had stated that Abraham had in his complaint to him alleged that the plan for construction of IIIT-D phase II had been approved by “misrepresenting the facts”.

Mohan noted, “In the approved plan, 65 acres of land has been shown to be belonging to GB Pant Polytechnic, out of which IIIT-D phase II has been allotted 25 acres, whereas it had only 25 acres of land. The parking space in the approved plan has been shown over the area where GB Pant Polytechnic and GB Pant Engineering College buildings already exist.”

As such, the adviser to the CM wrote to the principal secretary TTE to “forward the files/records pertaining to the allotment of land for the GB Pant Polytechnic and further allotment of land for the construction of IIIT-D phase II out of the land of GB Pant Polytechnic and approval of plan by the town planner within three days” for the perusal of the chief minister.

Subsequently, in his report, Mohan had in October 2016 stated that “after going through the records, the following facts have surfaced:

  • The cabinet decision was for the construction of IIIT-D phase II, however, all the approvals, sanctions from different agencies including the town planner have been obtained in the name of extension of GB Pant Polytechnic. Thus, the misrepresentation of facts has been proved.
  • Allotment of 25 acres of land for IIIT-D phase II is mentioned in all files, but nowhere is there a mention of specifications of khasra numbers of the land so allotted.
  • According to the records of the revenue department, GB Pant Polytechnic has less than 45 acres of land as against 65 acres claimed in all the correspondence by DTTE. On this 45 acres of land, GB Pant polytechnic and GB Pant Engineering College have already been constructed.
  • Approvals from different agencies, especially town planner as alleged in the complaint have been sought in the name of extension/alteration/addition of GB Pant Polytechnic instead of the IIIT-D Phase II.”

In view of all these discrepancies, the adviser to CM had recommended a thorough enquiry by involving the revenue and civil engineering experts. However, such a probe was never conducted.

Bhushan said when the students and teachers protested, the government insisted that the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, of which the college is a part, is a government institution and a state university. However, he said, it appears more of a ruse to siphon off public money since the government has given it huge loans. “Like any other public-private partnership venture, in this one too, public money is given out to an institute in which there is private control of a few.”

As for the Delhi government, Bhushan said when the students approached, it did nothing to address their grievance. “The AAP government which says that they have tripled the education budget and revolutionised educatio has not bothered to provide basic facilities to the students of G.B. Pant Engineering College.”

Bhushan, who has also filed a writ petition in the Delhi high court, said there is only a limited issue in the court and that it is about providing proper infrastructure to the college. He said that in the court, central government counsel and additional solicitor general had appeared on behalf of the Delhi government and he had submitted that all plans for providing adequate infrastructure have been made without elaborating on the issue.

Stating that it is a very unfortunate state of affairs, he said the episode reflects poorly on both the AAP government and the previous Congress regime.

Abraham, meanwhile, alleged that it was a massive land scam running into thousands of crores in which government land was “given free of cost to IIIT-D, an autonomous private-public institution.”

He said the document acquired by him through RTI had revealed that IIIT-D was a private-public partnership.

The students and staff of the college alleged that IIIT-D, which had just 25 acres of land initially, has got plans approved for construction over 65 acres. “Also, they have shown parking and green area in the land held by G.B. Pant Govt. Engineering College,” the group said.

Abraham said when a delegation of protesting students went to meet chief minister Kejriwal to raise the issue, they were turned away. He also charged that when another student of the college, Prashant, went to meet deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, the AAP leader asked him if he was from the Congress or BJP. “To this Prashant replied that he was just a simple student who was agitating for his right to good education.”

He said the students also faced difficulty in getting information about their college land through the Right to Information Act. “They first refused to provide information. It was only when I filed an application under the life and liberty clause that we got this information.”

The GB Pant Engineering College students also played a clip showing Sisodia delivering the budget speech where he says that the capacity of the college would be increased from 3,000 to 7,000 seats. Abraham said this was a joke because there were only 860 students in the college and no commensurate infrastructure.

Abraham who sat on an indefinite fast in protest, claimed that he was forcibly taken by the police to All India Institute of Medical Sciences on the tenth day and on his return, he resumed the fast. He was urged by Bhushan during the course of the press conference to give up his fast.