The Andhra CID has written to the Income-Tax department to probe the issue.

How did individuals living below poverty line buy Rs 220 crore worth land in Amaravati
news Controversy Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 17:40

In a new development in the allegations of irregularities in land deals related to the capital region of Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh CID has found that several white ration card holders – basically, people who are living Below Poverty Line – had purchased lands worth more than Rs 200 crore during 2014 and 2015. Additional Director General of Police (CID) PV Sunil Kumar has written to officials of the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate detailing the findings of the investigation, seeking probes against those involved in the transactions.

“Our investigation has revealed that 797 white ration cardholders, whose income is supposed to be less than Rs 5,000 per month have purchased lands of about 700 acres and indulged in financial transactions worth more than Rs 200 crore according to the certified value. Many of them don’t have a PAN card and are not paying taxes, but have purchased land worth crores of rupees,” Sunil Kumar said. The CID believes these may be benami properties.

According to CID officials, these irregular transactions were found in the mandals of Amaravati, Pedakakani, Tadikonda, Thullur, Mangalagiri and Tadepalli of the capital region. A total of 797 white ration card holders were found to have purchased a total of 761.34 acres of land. The total open market value for these lands has been estimated to be around Rs 220 crore. Out of these 797 people, the CID found that 529 did not have a PAN card.

The CID investigation was carried out based on a complaint filed in November 2019 by a woman from Thullur mandal belonging to a Scheduled Caste. The complainant had claimed that a Telugu Desam Party leader from their village, Bellamkonda Narasimha Rao, had occupied their land by force, and cheated them by creating false land records with the support of former TDP ministers Prathipati Pulla Rao and P Narayana.

The land pooling for the proposed capital of Amaravati was conducted under a separate law called the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) Act. Under the state’s Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), those owning land in the capital region could volunteer to give it up to the state government, in exchange for a developed plot to be returned in the future. Around 33,000 acres of land was pooled in this manner by the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, which had begun construction work.

The complainant from Thullur has alleged that Bellamkonda Narasimha Rao, on behalf of the two ministers, had instilled fear in her family by saying that the government would seize their family's 'assigned land' with no compensation in return.

Assigned land is land allotted to economically weak sections, particularly from SC and ST communities for livelihood. Such land was earlier prohibited from transfer sale or gifting or any other means to a third party. However, while framing the rules for land pooling for the construction of Amaravati, the TDP government issued a government order back in 2015 allowing these purchasers of assigned lands to give the land for pooling and be allotted developed plots in return.

The complainant goes on to allege that Narasimha Rao conned her family into selling their land to him for Rs 24 lakh for one acre, and went on to sell it to third parties for a much higher amount in crores, and have now claimed the developed plots returned by the CRDA.

On the other hand, benami transactions are believed to have been made in areas close to the CRDA land, where land prices were expected to skyrocket once the capital was established.

Sunil Kumar said that the CID has verified with the I-T Department regarding the crores of rupees spent on the transactions, and it was revealed that the people involved had never filed I-T returns. “The CID has registered cases under cheating the government. They could be benami transactions as well. In that case, we will verify on whose behalf they have purchased the land. We have written to the I-T Department and ED. They will act in their capacity, if it is a case of money laundering or tax evasion,” Sunil Kumar said.

On Wednesday, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed a resolution for a 'comprehensive investigation' on the alleged insider trading in the Amaravati region by leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

When the YSRCP came to power in May last year, all works in the Amaravati region were halted, with the government alleging insider trading by the TDP. While YSRCP leaders had named certain TDP leaders and associates for being involved in insider trading, no cases had been filed.

The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government has now decided to decentralise the capital, by establishing three different capitals with separate functions. As per the government’s plan, Visakhapatnam will be the ‘executive capital’, Kurnool the judicial capital, and Amaravati will be scaled down to be the legislative capital. Amaravati villages have seen continued protests by farmers and landowners, as well as opposition parties for the past month, ever since the CM announced the proposal.

Yet, the state Assembly went ahead and passed two bills allowing the decentralisation of the capital on Monday, after a prolonged debated and the suspension of 17 TDP MLAs of TDP. The bills are -- AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, and the AP Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) Act (Repeal) Bill. However, on Wednesday, the bills were sent to a select committee for deeper examination by the state Legislative Council Chairman M A Sharrif, temporarily halting the three-capital plan.