Saturday, December 09, 2006

Y.S.R Mafia Raj goes on Land grabbing spree in Andhra Pradesh

Y.S.R Mafia Raj goes on Land grabbing spree in Andhra Pradesh

Known for aggressively going after the Telugu Desam for questionable land deals, Andhra Pradesh Congress chief whip is caught doing the same
B. Sujata

Congress troubleshooter and chief whip in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, is in the dock over land-grabbing. Known for always hitting back at critics of the government, Reddy put the Telugu Desam on the defensive in the last Assembly session over sale of land and encroachments.

Ironically, the Congress mla from the Vayalapadu Assembly seat in Chittoor district now stands accused of similar wrongdoing. Reddy, who owns a house measuring 600 square yards (plot no. 236-A) in the Sri Venkateswara Housing Colony in Jubilee Hills for mlas, is accused of cornering another 835 square yards of land around his house.

Reddy is a onetime Ranji cricketer and son of former Congress minister N. Amarnath Reddy. He bought the Jubilee Hills plot from former legislator MM Ratnam and built a house on it. There was a huge rock in the middle of an inside lane adjoining his house and the municipality blocked the lane. According to Reddy, after consulting the housing society officials, he constructed a huge compound wall, which included the extra land in the corner that had been blocked off.

After his encroachment came to light, Reddy’s defended himself by saying he had done everything with the housing society’s approval. “I have deposited an amount of Rs 3,76,200 with the society towards the additional area occupied by me” he said. Reddy also pointed out that he was not the first to corner additional land in Jubilee Hills. He claimed that more than 62 sitting mlas and former legislators had taken over the vacant public land adjacent to their plots in the recent past.

However officials of the Sri Venkateswara Housing Colony contradict Reddy’s claims. K. Prabhakar Reddy, a member of the executive committee of the Sri Venkateswara Housing Cooperative Society said, “Sri Kiran Kumar Reddy has constructed a wall illegally without any authority or any approval from the society. The society has no authority to give additional land, that too vacant land in the society premises to any one. It has to be approved by the Housing ministry.” Reddy admitted that nearly 90 percent of the 500 plot owners in the society had encroached upon vacant government land around their plots.

“They have made representations only after putting up a wall and continue to enjoy the land even now. Many of them were chief ministers and members of council of ministries and also MPs” he said.

Kiran Kumar Reddy now says that he is ready to break the compound wall. “I am ready to wait till a decision is made by the state government and the society handed over the land to me in a dignified manner,” he said.

Reddy’s troubles has opened a Pandora’s box, throwing the spotlight on numerous instances of encroachment of prime land in Hyderabad by politicians and public officials. A recent report by the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad’s vigilance committee has identified 65 legislators who have encroached upon government land and then sought Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker KR Suresh Reddy’s approval to rectify the lapses. The legislators are not alone — barely a kilometre from the Assembly, a former mayor of the city has encroached almost half of a road in the A.C. Guards area and built his house over 500 sq. yards.

A former deputy chief minister has also built a bungalow in the corner of a public park in Padmaraonagar colony near the Secunderabad railway station.

At least 20 former IAS and IPS officials, including a former chief secretary, bought housing plots in Banjara Hills from the government at throwaway prices with an undertaking that they would build houses for weaker sections within the plots. To honour their commitment, they built servants quarters and now, almost 90 percent of the plots have been converted into either residential complexes or shopping malls.

During peace negotiations with the government in October 2004, the CPI (Maoist) demanded that the state redistribute 15,000 acres of encroached urban land and distribute it among the urban poor. The Congress government ignored the demand.

Since 1999, the AP government has acquired nearly 5,000 acres of private land in Hyderabad for distribution among it companies, and for road and airport projects. In addition, nearly 2,700 acres of evacuee property — which belonged to those who left for Pakistan after the Partition — around Hyderabad has also caught the attention of policy makers and realtors. As a result of the it boom, the cost of land in Hyderabad and its outskirts has spiralled 2,500 times. Reddy’s is just one instance of what has become a virtual free-for-all land grab by the influential and the powerful

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