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Plot from past haunts Hema- RTI query reveals versova land 'violations'

Published On : 04 Feb 2016

Mumbai, (The Telegraph): An information activist today said Hema Malini violated coastal zone regulations in a now-aborted bid to develop a plot allotted in the nineties when a BJP-Shiv Sena government was in power, but that hadn't stopped Maharashtra's current rulers from being generous.

The allegation has come at a time Hema, a BJP MP, is embroiled in another land-related controversy.

The latest row is over a 2,000 square metre plot in Andheri that the current BJP-Sena government in Maharashtra allotted her last year at a fraction of existing market rates to set up a dance school.

The earlier plot, too, had been given to build a dance school but Anil Galgali, a well-known right to information activist, said Hema aborted her construction plans after she was pulled up by the collectorate for "chopping off eco-critical mangrove tracts" on the beachside plot.

The actress couldn't be reached for comment.

Galgali said he learnt about the earlier plot in Versova, allotted in April 1997, following an RTI application that the Mumbai suburban collector's office responded to.

"I have received a reply from the Mumbai suburban collector's office which has revealed that Ms Hema Malini was earlier allotted yet another plot in suburban Mumbai by a previous BJP-Sena regime to build a dance school. And she violated the strict coastal zone regulations for environmental protection of Mumbai's shoreline by chopping off a large tract of eco-critical mangroves on the beachside plot to begin construction of her school," Galgali told The Telegraph.

Galgali said Hema had not yet returned the Versova plot that measured 1,741.89sqm, according to the RTI reply from the collector's office.

"Despite destroying mangroves, no action was taken against her by the then government," Galgali said. "She continues to be in possession of that land in Versova through her trust. The current state government has allotted her yet another plot at dirt-cheap price to build the same dance school."

The Andheri plot - situated in the Ambivali area of Mumbai suburb Andheri-Oshiwara - is worth around Rs 70 crore, according to prevailing market rates. The BJP-Sena government, which came to power in 2014, gave her the plot for Rs 70,000 to build the dance academy.

Galgali said the current government initiated the new land allotment, "ignoring the previous violations".

The earlier plot is in Versova village, home to the indigenous Koli fishermen since the time Mumbai was a mere bunch of backwater islands. According to the RTI reply, the government plot (survey No. 161, adjoining the Versova creek and measuring 1741.89sqm) was allotted to Hema on April 4, 1997, against an advance payment of Rs 10 lakh.

"She had made an advance payment of Rs 10 lakh to the government at the time. By my calculation, that land at the time would have cost about Rs 6 crore. After receiving the warning from the collector, she stopped her plans for construction all right, but did not make any more payments. She was then questioned by the collectorate about the project report she had submitted to them to build the academy," Galgali said.

The reply also says that at that time, the collectorate had sought an explanation after it was found that though she had submitted a project report worth Rs 3.7 crore, she did not bring in a commensurate bank guarantee of 25 per cent, as required by regulations.

"The bank details she submitted showed that she had only Rs 22.50 lakh in the Santa Cruz branch of Samta Sahkari Bank Ltd," Galgali said. "She should have given a bank guarantee of about Rs 90 lakh at least."

Galgali said no action was taken although the actress continued to occupy the plot despite ignoring a notice from the collectorate in 1998 that sought a reply "within 10 days" over the alleged irregularities.

Last year, Hema was finally asked to surrender the plot by January 15, 2016, but she has not done so yet. Last week, she told reporters she would be doing so soon.

Photo credit: The Telegraph

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