ET had called the land scam in Telangana a ‘major embarrassment’, but the IT Minister dismissed it as an attempt to dent the state’s image.

Wave of panic among investors after land scam writes Economic Times KTR issues rebuttalImage: Facebook/KTR
news Land scam Thursday, June 29, 2017 - 12:12

Following a media report that the Telangana land scam, involving hundreds of acres, was valued at least Rs 15,000 crore, state IT Minister KT Rama Rao has hit back, with a detailed response on social media. 

The Economic Times report, written by Sobia Khan and CR Sukumar, was published on June 26, and made stinging claims on the land scam.

Stating that the scam triggered a "wave of panic among investors," the report claimed that Google, Microsoft, Tishman Speyer, Shapoorji Pallonji, DLF, Lanco, Puravankara, Sattva Salarpuria and My Home group, were some of the major companies affected by the scam.

Dubbing it 'a major embarrassment', the report had also stated that this had come as Hyderabad's real estate market was beginning to look up after several years and for the first time.

Following this, many media outlets had picked up the story, until it was noticed by the Minister himself.

Background

The land scam was unearthed in the last week of May, following the arrest of the Kukatpally sub-registrar, which revealed the alleged illegal transfer of several hundred acres of government land to private individuals.

Sub-registrar R Srinivasa Rao, along with PS Parthasarathi and PVS Sharma, directors of two firms, were the chief accused in the scam.

The police said that Srinivasa Rao had illegally aided the transfer of land, from the state government, to Sharma and Parthasarathi, which resulted in a loss of over Rs 500 crore to the state's exchequer.

Soon after the scam came to light, Opposition leaders had alleged that 50 acres of lands were purchased by TRS MP Keshav Rao's daughter and daughter-in-law at Ibrahimpatnam, allegedly from 'Goldstone' Prasad, who was one of the other prominent suspects in the case.

Despite this, the state government remained adamant, and has refused to accept the demand for a CBI probe into the scam.

KTR's response

Taking to Facebook, KTR called the article a "deliberate attempt to dent the image of a fledgling state".

In his response, he began by emphasising the need for a responsible media in a healthy democracy and the role that they played, as the fourth pillar.

“So, where does the freedom to sensationalize stop, and where does the responsibility and accountability start? Such questions are far more relevant in case of Telangana, because it has been a victim of such uninformed and malicious reporting during the time of Telangana Movement," he wrote.

He added that most newspapers accepted the reality of the new state after its formation, and began taking a neutral or passive stand on issues.

However, speaking about Economic Times, the Minister made several allegations. Here are some excerpts of his response below: 

“Few newspapers continued to vilify the new state without even giving it a breathing space. It appears they have taken on the intention to sabotage the efforts put in by the fledgling state. Within 4 weeks after the formation of Telangana, Economic Times (ET) published an unsubstantiated news item that nearly 700 firms from Hyderabad have shifted to Andhra Pradesh, when in reality no such thing happened.

Another uncorroborated article followed within a month that was intended to send an ominous signal to the investors across the globe that things are not right with Telangana. ET has gone on an overdrive to create baseless stories with an active intent to denigrate the state. Over the last 3 years, the Chief of Bureau of ET in Hyderabad has been writing a series of negative stories on Telangana. And whenever a major investor started their operations in Telangana, the Chief of Bureau of ET was conspicuous by his absence at the launch event. There is a clear pattern in these manoeuvres and articles. Looks like ET has been continuing its efforts to denigrate Telangana in the eyes of investors.

With the recent article, Economic Times has reached a new low in sensational journalism. Most of the cases referred to in the article are from the time before the formation of Telangana - some of them are over 10 years old. It is a well-known fact that the new state inherited a legacy fraught with complicit deals. One of the ‘scams’ referred to in the article was in fact unearthed in an internal audit by the Telangana Government. And it has already set in motion the corrective measures. The ET article mentions Google and Microsoft only to attract international audience but fails to quote any of the officials from those organization. Clearly, the entire article is fabricated, using some incidents that happened before the formation of Telangana to mischievously tarnish the image of the new state in the eyes of the investors.

There is a consistent pattern to how Economic Times has been portraying Telangana. The intentions are nefarious. This calls for an important debate in this country. Can a newspaper get away with any kind of news reporting? Is ET being a responsible newspaper when it comes to its reporting on Telangana or is it being just selling its space to paid articles?

When a politician is corrupt, we have means available to prosecute him through legal methods, or oust him in elections. But what can a nation do when the watchdog itself becomes corrupt, posing a greater threat to Indian democracy?”


The ET report can be found here, and the full text of KTR's response can be found here.

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