December 11 2019
Land sale for Videocon unit scrapped
01 July 2011

Taking note of TOI's report on the coercive purchase of tribal land by the Chhattisgarh home minister's son on behalf of Videocon, the collector of Janjgir Champa district on Friday cancelled the transfer of land, ruling it was "benaami" and "illegal". He ordered that the land be restored to tribal farmers.

The collector's order comes a week after TOI reported that Sandeep Kanwar, son of home minister Nankiram Kanwar, had been acting as a 'front' for Videocon, which is setting up a power project in Janjgir Champa district. Since Chhattisgarh`s rules do not permit sale of tribal land to non-tribals, the company had enlisted Kanwar, a tribal himself, to buy land for its project.

Kanwar bought the land at less than one-third the rate set by the government for land acquisition for industrial projects. Since the land was sold to Kanwar, and not the company, the tribal farmers lost both a fair price and the right to rehabilitation. The farmers told TOI they had been intimidated and coerced into selling the land, since Kanwar was "mantri ka beta", and had been visiting the villages in a "lal batti gaadi" marked with BJP`s symbol.

A day after the report appeared in TOI, district collector of Janjgir Champa, Brijesh Mishra, ordered an inquiry into the transfer of land. He issued notices to Kanwar and Videocon. Both failed to reply. A week later, the collector`s final order corroborates what TOI reported.

The order states, "Sandeep Kanwar bought the land for Videocon. This is proved by the fact that the payment was made by cheques issued by Videocon. The land has been bought for setting up an industrial project (but) the sale deed was executed in the name of Sandeep Kanwar. This was done to escape the provisions of section 165 (6) of land revenue code 1959 (which disallows the sale of tribal land to non tribals without the permission of the collector)".

The collector also stated that tribal farmers had testified that they had been cheated by Videocon and that they are yet to recieve full payment promised to them.

Noting that the purchase of land was done through a "benaami" route that violated provisions of law, the district collector cancelled the transfer and asked the revenue department to ensure that 13.65 acres of land was restored to five farmers, Gulab, Sonuaram, Radhabai, Sukalu and Hiran.

However, TOI had also reported that land was being purchased in the same villages by other `fronts` propped by the company: Bodhiram Sahu, an employee of Videocon and Bilam Singh, a resident of Kawardha district. The collector`s report, however, was silent on those purchases.

"All the land deals in the area should be investigated. And the Home Minister should resign since his son has abused his position to cheat tribal farmers," said Nand Kumar Patel, state Congress president.

On Thursday, the local Congress leaders met governor Shekhar Dutt and submitted a memorandum asking for the home minister`s removal.



Related Stories