Mumbai, Feb 5: Facing heat over allotment of a prime piece of land to actress-turned-politician Hema Malini for a token rate here, BJP-led Maharashtra government has decided to tighten the land lease rules to ensure higher rates on allotment of state-owned plots.
While a senior bureaucrat today confirmed that the new policy will ensure "ready reckoner rates" from the beneficiaries, it is not clear whether Malini will have to pay a higher price to take possession of the land allotted to her dance academy at Oshiwara in the city since that decision was taken by the state cabinet.
"Yes, we have been asked to relook into the old GR (Government Resolution) issued in 1983 that allows land meant for cultural or educational purposes to be given on lease at 25 per cent of 1976's ready reckoner rates and come out with a fresh policy," said the senior officer.
The land allotment to Malini has run into controversy after RTI activist Anil Galgali brought the issue to the fore and demanded that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis either cancel the allotment or charge the price of the land at market rate from the BJP MP.
Congress and other opposition parties in the state have dubbed the allotment of land to Malini for her Natyavihar Kala Kendra Charity trust as an act of "favouritism."
Galgali also said the Chief Minister had informed him of the government's plan to tighten land allotment rules so that public assets were not alienated for throwaway price. "Yes, Chief Minister today informed me that he has directed officials to cancel old GR and come up with a fresh one.
This is a really welcome gesture from him and it would save him and his government from further embarrassment," the activist said. Under fire over the issue, the BJP had earlier defended the land allotment to Malini's institution saying that it was not the first time that a land for academic purpose was provided to anyone.
Housing Minister Prakash Mehta said plots had been provided on one rupee lease to trusts set up in memory of Congress stalwarts like Yashvantrao Chavan, Vasant Dada Patil, and Shankar Rao Chavan.
Malini, who was alloted a 2,000 sq metre plot last month at a price of Rs 70,000, had alleged that an unnecessary controversy was created over the issue as she had not made the final payment for the plot. The 67-year-old actress and MP from Mathura is also facing allegation of violating CRZ rules by destroying mangroves on a plot earlier alloted to her at Versova.
An RTI query, also filed by Galgali, revealed that the actress was served notice on the land dealing in 1998 but no follow-up was done by the officials concerned. A PIL seeking direction to the police to file a case against Malini and Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse on the land issue is pending in Bombay High Court.