After dna expose, Maharashtra minister agrees to give land back to Dalit family

MUMBAI,SUDHIR SURYAWANSHI :After dna exposed on June 12, how senior BJP leader and irrigation minister Girish Mahajan had bought 4.97 acres of land on the sly from a Dalit farmer way back in 2002, the minister on Tuesday told dna that he is ready to return the land.

Interestingly, Mahajan, who is close to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, had concealed the details of this 4.97-acre plot – located in Manpur village in Bhusawal area of Jalgaon district in North Maharashtra – in election affidavits he filed in 2004, 2009, and 2014.

The land, belonging to five members of a Dalit family – Govind Jangalu (60), Supudu Jangalu (68), Rajaram Sukha Mahar (60), Bajirao Sukha Mahar (60) and Bhaskar Sukha Mahar (55) – was brought for a mere Rs 1.11 lakh in 2002, i.e. approximately Rs 22,000 per acre. The market price of the land at that time was Rs 5 lakh per acre. dna has a copy of the sale deed.

Speaking to dna, Harish Govind Tayade (40), son of Govind Jangalu, said that his father, who passed away five months back, was illiterate and was forced to sign on the sale agreement. “My father was threatened by Mahajan’s men to sell the land, else it would be taken away forcibly,” Tayade alleged.

“My father was promised Rs 40,000 per acre, but when the deal happened, it was shown on the agreement that the land has been sold at Rs 22,000 per acre, and we were given only Rs 10,000 per acre,” Tayade said. “When we asked for the remaining money, we were told that the rest of the money has been paid to clear the debts accrued on our land earlier,” he added.

Tayade said that as part of the deal, his family members were promised jobs in an Ethanol project, which was to come up on the land. “It is more than 14 years now, but, the project has not come up,” Tayade claimed.

Mahajan said that he had bought the land to start a cooperative sugar factory. “I was the director of a sugar factory, for which the land was purchased. We had purchased a total of 45 acres and only five acres was on my name. The sugar factory proposal did not work out due to continuous changing of policies by the previous government. The land is barren even today. In the last 14 years, I have not visited the land even once nor have I used it for any other purpose. I am ready to surrender this land,” Mahajan told dna.

“I had not purchased the land forcefully. In fact, people came forward and sold the land to me,” Mahajan claimed.

Commenting on the missing details of this land in his election affidavits, Mahajan said that he had forgotten that he owned that 4.97 acres. “It does not fall in my constituency also. I do not want to get involved in any controversy over it. I want to end the issue here only,” Mahajan added.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) spokesperson Sachin Sawant slammed Mahajan for grabbing the Dalit (Mahar Vatan) land. “Mahajan has no moral right to remain as the minister. He should resign immediately,” Sawant said.