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National News

Audit report finds lack of transparency in Noida farmhouse allotments

New Delhi, Dec.14 (ANI): An audit has found that there was no transparency in the allotment of over 100 farmhouse plots allotted to people through an auction in Noida.

Among the allotees were Supreme Court advocate Shanti Bhushan and his son Jayant Bhushan.

According to the audit, the Noida Authority had fixed a very low rate of Rs.3, 100 per square meter, disregarding its own formula, and causing a loss of Rs.145.80 crore to the exchequer.

The Indian Express reports that in the process of carving out farmhouses from agricultural land and selling these, the Noida authority violated the law under which it was set up, did not consult the law department, kept making changes to the benefit of allottees, and kept the scheme open for 15 months “by reserving allotment in sectors other than those available”.

The authority allotted 79 plots in 2009-10 and 22 plots in 2010-11, while seven farmhouses were reserved for allotment in future.

The paper further reports that the Uttar Pradesh Government’s own Local Fund Audit Department conducted some of the findings of the audit.

Asked about the current status of the report, the Indian Express quotes Ravindra Tiwari, Director of the Local Fund Audit Department, as saying: “We had got the reply of the authority last month but they have recently sent an amended reply. The scrutiny of the reply is pending with the assistant director’s office and will reach us soon.”

Neither Noida authority CEO Rama Raman nor Chairman Mohinder Singh could be reached despite several attempts.

When the discretionary allotments were first reported in the media, Shanti Bhushan had admitted that there was no transparency in the scheme and that farmhouses were given without any clear criterion.

Claiming that he too was “surprised” at the farmhouses allotted to his son and him, Bhushan said: “The people who applied and were not given the farmland should challenge it. I have heard that bribes have passed hands for these allotments but, obviously, not from us. There may be a case for a scheme like this to be cancelled.”

The findings of the audit are as follows:

“The department has not clarified the basis on which land for farmhouses was allotted at the rate of Rs 3,100 per sq metre. This has caused a loss of about Rs 145.80 crore.”

Under the Uttar Pradesh Industrial Area Development Act, Section 6(1), the Noida authority was constituted “to secure planned development of industrial development areas”. Therefore, “the justification for bringing a farmhouse scheme needs to be clarified”, says the audit report.

The audit report cites “lack of clarity regarding transparency in the process of allotment on the basis of applications”. Incidentally, the authority had hired UPICO, a UP government consultancy, for evaluation of applications and it was paid Rs 7.60 lakh for scrutiny of 190 applications received between January 19, 2009, and April 12, 2010, at the rate of Rs 4,000 per application.

“After publication of the farmhouse scheme, five amendments were made in one month, changing the original format, and all were in favour of the allottees. It was stated that the changes were made on applicants’ requests, which were made orally or on the phone.” (ANI)