Telangana Congress chief in tight spot

Telangana Congress chief in tight spot

Government to take back land given to Ponnala’s firm

By P S Jayaram

Published: Fri 28 Nov 2014, 1:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 2:37 AM

Hyderabad — Former minister and Telangana Congress President Ponnala Lakshmaiah is in deep trouble with the State Government declaring that it would take back 8.3 acres of assigned land (meant for the underprivileged Dalits) he had purchased in a prime location in Warangal district.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao made the announcement in the State Assembly, stating that action would be initiated against the Congress leader as per the provisions of the Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfer) Act, which the latter had allegedly violated while purchasing the land. If found guilty, Lakshmaiah faces a prison term of six months or Rs10,000 in fine, or both.

The land to be recovered from the State Congress President is in the name of Tirumala Hatcheries owned by him. “The government will also probe cases of encroachment of assigned lands which add up to as much as 190,000 acres,” KCR, as the chief minister is known, said, intervening during a discussion on the subject.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government also agreed to constitute a House Committee, comprising members of all parties, to probe encroachment of assigned, Wakf, endowments and other classified lands. Earlier, Deputy Chief Minister Mahmood Ali and Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao made statements on the illegal possession of lands by Lakshmaiah under Rule 74 of the Assembly Rules and Regulations.

Stating that Lakshmaiah had prima facie violated the Assigned Lands Act, Harish Rao said Lakshmaiah had purchased 8.3 acres of land at Rampur in Warangal district which was assigned to Dalits in 1971. “Lakshmaiah filed a writ petition in the High Court in 1987 seeking directions to legalise the transaction, which he withdrew in 1994 only to approach the court again,” the minister said, adding that the High Court struck down the petition in 2001 citing the Act.

Pointing out that according to the provisions of the law, assigned lands can neither be transferred or sold, Harish Rao said about 106.01 acres of land was originally allotted to 120 Dalits in Rampur in 1971. However, in 1982, it was taken back and given to industries but as the project did not materialize, it was taken back again and handed over to the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC).

Tirumala Hatcheries promoted by Lakshmaiah which was allotted 8.39 acres, however, refused to part with the land and went to court which rejected the former minister’s claims, he said, adding that after the Congress came to power in 2004, Lakshmaiah, then a minister, forced the government to issue a Government Order (GO) in favor of his company.

Subsequently, the government, on the advice of the APIIC, issued orders to take back the land, but it was not implemented since Lakshmaiah was a Cabinet minister, Harish Rao said, adding that even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had found fault with the allotment.

Leader of the Opposition K Jana Reddy tried to put up a weak defense stating that the TRS government was targeting an individual. “The question of Lakshmaiah purchasing assigned land doesn’t arise since he was allotted the land by the APIIC. It is clearly a case of the government trying to defame a Congress leader,” he said.

Harish Rao, waving letters written by the APIIC, said the Corporation was against allotting the land to Lakshmaiah, but it had done so only under government pressure.

Stating that the government was only interested in protecting the rights of the Dalits and not interested in targeting any on individual, the minister said: “As per law, whatever action is to taken in this case will be taken. Secondly, about 190,000 acres of assigned land is under encroachment. Dalit lands should be given back to Dalits, and the same gores for Wakf, Endowment, Bhudhan and ceiling surplus lands.”

Intervening in the debate, the Chief Minister urged the Speaker to fix a time-bound schedule for the House Committee and also fix a time limit for the government to take action against the encroachers. “The House Committee report would be tabled in the next Budget session to be held in February when we can also debate on the House Committee report,” he said.

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