The Rajiv Gandhi Trust is considering legal action against those who have compared its getting land on lease from a gram panchayat in Haryana for a charitable eye hospital to the land scam in Karnataka, say Congress sources.
On a day when the Rajya Sabha had to be adjourned twice after the Bharatiya Janata Party attempted to raise the issue, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi lashed out at the principal Opposition and media organisations that had “misinformed” the public to “confuse and confound” them.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the charges levelled against the Gandhis — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka, the trustees — were “distressing.” “The BJP,” she said, “issued statements without going into the issue. We have not found fault with Yeddyurappa [who has stepped down as Karnataka Chief Minister]. The Lokayukta has found him guilty.”
Labelling the controversy as a classic case of “misinformation coupled with a complete lack of knowledge of the real facts,” Mr. Singhvi told journalists that “even before the Trust’s application to lease 5.3 acres in July 2009, the land had been notified for acquisition under Section 4 as part of a much larger batch of 1,417 acres.”
Later, 608 acres of these 1,417 acres was dropped from the acquisition during 2010. However, 5.3 acres out of these 608 acres had been leased to the Rajiv Gandhi Trust by the local gram panchayat for 33 years, on an annual rental of Rs. 15 lakh on condition that it build a charitable eye hospital there, performing surgeries priced nominally between Rs. 500 and Rs. 5,000. For those living below the poverty line, surgeries would be performed free of cost. The Trust would also help set up Self-Help Groups for women and provide vocational training to for locals. If the Trust reneged on these and some other conditions, the land would revert possession to the gram panchayat, Mr. Singhvi said.
“Those who are trying to politicise the issue are obstructing genuine charitable activity,” he stressed, pointing out that the leased land did not belong to individual farmers. The case filed in a Haryana court had nothing to do with the 5.3 acres, but with the 809 acres that had been acquired: those farmers whose land had been acquired, he said, filed the case.
Saying that no rules had been bent for the Trust and stressing that the gram panchayat continued to own the land, Mr. Singhvi objected to Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, equating Bhatta Parsaul with the Haryana issue.
(Bhatta Parsaul in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, recently witnessed an agitation by farmers against the land acquisition policies of the Mayawati government.)
Meanwhile, BJP president Nitin Gadkari, elaborating on Mr. Jaitley’s accusations, demanded that Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda resign, and that either a judicial enquiry or High Court-monitored investigation be ordered into the leasing of all land in Haryana. He said Ms. Gandhi, as a trustee, must herself provide an explanation. Hindu