Caretaker Gifts Kuppam Land
source: Deccan Chronicle, Nov 30, 2003
Hyderabad, Nov. 29: Believe it or not, the caretaker Telugu Desam government has offered ayurvedic giant Dabur as much as 120 acre of land for a monthly lease of Rs 5,833 to set up a hi-tech herbal park in Caretaker Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's Kuppam constituency.
The government gave away the land on a platter to the company through an Order (GO Ms No 1199 dated November 25, 2003) by Revenue Principal secretary A K Goyal granting lease of 120 acre for 30 years. The land belongs to Kodanda Rame Swamy temple in Ramakuppam village of Timmasamudram mandal in Chittoor district. The area comprises 109.52 acre of dry land and 10.83 acre of wet land.
Official sources told Deccan Chronicle that Dabur India approached the State government with a proposal to set up herbal park to grow medicinal plants. To mark the beginning of the "association" between the firm and the government, the latter allotted the land on lease for just one year (2003-2004).
The firm then proposed that it would pay one rupee per acre per day (Rs 43,800 per annum) or a lumpsum amount of Rs 5,000 per month (Rs 60,000 per annum). Apparently, keeping in view the larger interests of the State revenues, the caretaker government did not compromise on the price quoted by the company but decided to grant the lease for Rs 70,000 per annum.
Based on the directions of the government, the revenue department issued A-I notice-inviting objections from people over transfer of land to the company on lease. The local revenue authorities claming to have issued the notice reported back to the government that there were no objections from people.
Significantly, the procedure of gram panchayat issuing A-I notice would be adopted only when government lands are transferred and not in the case of endowment lands. For endowment lands, the department issues form FI inviting objections from the existing leaseholders over the cancellation of lease and going in for fresh auction.
The Endowments Department had launched statewide drive canceling existing low lease amounts and issued fresh lease based on the current market value. As per the amended Act, the Endowments Department should not give lease for more than three years and should go in for fresh auction after the expiry of the lease period.
"There is a special provision with which the government can take control of endowment land for a cost and utilize for whatever purpose it wants," Endowments Minister D Sivarama Raju said, while admitting that the GO was issued after the file was circulated to the Chief Minister through Revenue secretary and himself.
According to revenue authorities, the government takes over possession of endowment land to extend "social benefits" like construction of houses for weaker sections and distribution of land pattas for poor but not for commercial ventures like the Dabur activity. When contacted principal secretary Goyal refused to talk "as he was ill."