In another betrayal to the people of Goa, Chief Minister of Goa has decided to withdraw anti-corruption cases against three senior Congress leaders including two former chief ministers in connection with an alleged Special Economic Zone (SEZ) scam.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, a senior minister said.
Interestingly, the cabinet also decided to seek out-of-court settlement with five SEZ promoters by paying them Rs 256 crore.
Here is a brief synopsis of the SEZ scam and involvement of the then Congress ministers and now MLAs Luizinho Faleiro, Pratapsingh Rane, current Leader of Opposition Chandrakant (Babu) Kavlekar and former MLA Alexio Sequeira
Pratapsingh Rane – the then Chief Minister of Goa, Luzinho Faleiro – the then Minister for Industries and Alexio Sequeira – the then Minister for Power as well as director of the Goa Industrial Development Corporation; were the three ministers who intentionally favoured the allotment of government lands to certain applicants, who in reality were merely real estate brokers, by circumventing certain established guidelines. By issuing letters of recommendations favouring some applicants and endorsing a decision at an illegal meeting, they have caused a loss of crores of rupees to the public exchequer, which amount will hopefully be quantified by the Public Accounts Committee.
In a letter note dated 13th March 2006, Luzinho Faleiro as the Industries Minister noted: “We may direct Goa-IDC under Sec 16 read with Sec 28 of Goa, Daman & Diu IDC Act 1965, to allot the 250 acres of land at Keri to M/s Meditab Specialties Pvt to set up SEZ for pharmaceutical on their own as and where basis on the same terms.”
What is significant in this is the fact that Luizinho recommended that the land be given to the private company on the same terms as decided earlier to be given to a government corporation even though the yardstick to be used for a government undertaking and a private enterprise is different.
His note reads: “ It was proposed and decided to allot the said land to GEDC on actual cost basis for the purpose of setting up of educational institution with a simple interest of 5% on the actual expenditure incurred on the acquisition and the administrative cost till the date of handing over the possession of land.”
A little later in the note, he writes: “We may direct Goa IDC under Sec. 16 read with Sec. 28 of Goa, Daman & Diu IDC Act, 1965 to allot the 250 acres of land on the same terms i.e. actual cost basis plus 10% simple interest per annum instead of 5%.”
Luizinho further states in the note that the chief minister may also see his recommendations, thereby playing it safe to share the responsibility or liability.
Pratapsingh Rane in a letter addressed directly to him by Neel Raheja – one of the promoters of the K Raheja Corporation – has endorsed a note to the MD of Goa IDC in his own handwriting saying, “Please help these people.”
In the letter K Raheja clearly states we are one of the leading developers of real estate in the country, catering to requirements of the IT, Retail and Hospitality Industry in various cities in India.
Alexio Sequeira was the director on the Goa-IDC Board and he along with Chandrakant Kavlekar, Chairman, Goa IDC have omitted the guidelines set by Goa – IDC on key fronts;
1. The GIDC Board had exceeded its jurisdiction, going beyond the scope of its powers, by waiving off Transfer Fees, sub-lease fees in the Board Meeting held on 19th April 2006, without even a request for the said waiver from the applicants.
2. Furthermore, an additional 5, 00,000 lakh sqmts of land were given by GIDC to the SEZ developers to construct internal roads and open space; free of cost, initially, and then subsequently at Board Meeting 295 imposing a rate of Rs 100 per sqmts to be changed and used as per the master plan and for their exclusive use.
3. Although the Board passed a resolution at its 285th meeting in February 2006, fixing the minimum rate for the industrial plots to be allotted at Rs 750 per sqmts for phase 1, 1A, 2, 2A, and 3 of the Verna Industrial estate, interestingly they did not fix a rate for Phase 4 (which was required much after the above phases) was allotted to the SEZ developers at an inexplicable rate of just Rs 600/- per square meter, much lower than the rate fixed for land acquired in earlier years. No Board resolution on these changes was ever passed.
4. More importantly in the issue concerning the applicants K Raheja Corporation, Planetview Mercantile, Inox Mercantile and Margrow Finlease in the allotment of 18.77 sqmts of land in Verna completing all formalities in less than three and half day.
5. And the most important being that the meeting of 19th April 2006 was illegal as there was no quorum. The rules clearly state that one of the Directors or Secretary appointed to the GIDC board has to be present to establish quorum. But for the 19th April 2006 meeting no director or Secretary was present and yet such important decisions were taken at this meeting which is actually null and void in the eyes of the law.
In 2008, the erstwhile Digambar Kamat-led government scrapped SEZ proposals following protests by local people and allegations of irregularities and corruption.
The SEZ promoters moved the Supreme Court against the decision. The Apex court, in February this year, directed the Goa government and promoter companies to work out an amicable solution while fixing the next hearing in July.
In 2012, the state government had filed cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act against former chief minister Pratapsingh Rane, former industries minister Luizinho Faleiro and former chairman of Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) Chandrakant Kavlekar, as the land allotment had taken place during their tenures.
SEZ promoters K Raheja & Corporation, Peninsula Pharma Research Centre, Planetview Mercantile Co, Inox Mercantile Company and Paradigm Logistics & Distribution had stated that they were ready to return the land if the government refunded them the purchase amount with 15 percent interest.
The question GoaChronicle.com is asking Parrikar is does being a politician allow you immunity for corruption charge which were brought to light by Parrikar himself when he was leader of the Opposition.