Mumbai: Just days before the Ram temple consecration ceremony at Ayodhya, Scroll.in, in its detailed investigation, has found out about land dealings between local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and the Adani group.
According to the story by reporter Ayush Tiwari, between October and December 2023, a firm called Time City Multi State Cooperative Housing Society bought a small parcel of land near the Saryu river for Rs 1.13 crore.
Weeks later, the report says, the land was sold to the Adani group for more than three times the price – Rs 3.57 crore.
Time City is a part of the Time City group founded by Chandra Prakash Shukla, a former chartered accountant with the Sahara group, who joined the BJP and was an MLA from Kaptanganj between 2017 and 2022. The group is run by Shukla’s former business associate, Pankaj Pathak – a BJP member, who the Scroll report says has “many friends in the state unit of the BJP party”.
In this deal, it was the farmers who sold the land for a cheap throwaway price. The land deal also raises many ecological questions.
In October 2023, Time City bought a hectare of land in Majha Jamthara. That land belonged to the families of Ghanseera Yadav and Kabootra Devi Yadav.
The land in Majha Jamthara that was sold to the Adani group is part of the environmentally sensitive wetland near Saryu, a habitat of the Sarus crane, grey heron, and the Indian fox. Since December 2022, the government has prohibited any new construction in this area.
Majha Jamthara is a vast, unpopulated region between Faizabad, Ayodhya and the Saryu river – about 5 kilometres away from the Ram temple being built on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood.
In a response to Scroll’s questions, a spokesperson for the Adani group said, “The transaction carried out by [one of its subsidiaries] is completely legal and has been conducted in accordance with all laws and regulations. The company acquired land at the prevailing circle rates.”
Scroll’s investigation has further found that in February 2021, the Yadavs sold 0.56 hectares of the land they had inherited to Sudha Dixit, a resident of Kanpur, for Rs 33.53 lakh over two transactions. This amount is significantly below the land’s circle rate (minimum) price, which the report claims then stood at Rs 77.46 lakh.
A common witness in both these transactions was Suryabhan Singh, who is a legal advisor to Time City, the Scroll expose states.
Two years later, Dixit sold this property to Time City for Rs 40 lakh over two sale deeds – that is, two separate transactions. The witnesses in both the sale deeds were Jaibhan Singh and Avinash Singh.
In November last year, the Yadavs sold another land parcel of 0.44 hectare directly Time City for Rs 33 lakh. This time too the deal was much below the circle price and the witnesses in the deal were Avinash Singh and Sitaram Yadav.
Nearly all witnesses in these three transactions are linked to local BJP politicians.
Suryabhan and Jaibhan are brothers of Chandrabhan Singh, a BJP worker and member of the Ayodhya zila panchayat. Avinash is Chandrabhan’s son. Sitaram Yadav is the father-in-law of Suman Yadav, a BJP municipal councillor from Amaniganj in Faizabad.
Along with the transaction, the other aspect that has come under a scanner is the legality of the sale of land to a private player in an ecologically sensitive region.
The Scroll report highlights the 2019 committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had found that the area around the Majha Jamthara wetland belonged to the state government.
The solid waste management monitoring committee of the NGT was first alerted about water pollution in Majha Jamthara in May 2019 by a priest in Ayodhya.
The land records, attached in an interim report by the committee, show that a major chunk of the land bought by the Adani group in Majha Jamthara comes under this submerged area.