After the multi-crore illegal mining scam, another massive scam involving the state wakf board is creating ripples across Karnataka's political circles.
A report that was submitted by the state minority commission to Karnataka Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda alleges that the wakf board, in association with various leaders who were part of the earlier Congress government in Karnataka, had sold off nearly 22,000 acres of land in prime areas and earned a whopping Rs 2 lakh crore.
The report, which will be tabled in the legislative assembly, has mentioned wakf board chairman Riaz Khan and 38 other Congress leaders. According to the report, Khan, who is absconding, had connived with the other leaders and sold off this property to realtors and other establishments.
The report claims that these dealings have been conducted over 11 years and caused great loss to the state exchequer.
The scam first came to light when some members of the state minorities commission visited Bidar in north Karnataka in November. During this visit, an applicant petitioned these members and spoke about how wakf land had been sold off illegally. The commission took note of this and constituted a probe, following which an FIR was filed against the board.
Once the scam became public, it opened a can of worms and 1,800 different petitions were filed in connection to it. After conducting its probe, the commission found that 22,000 acres of wakf property had been sold off illegally.
Major chunks of land were sold off illegally in Bangalore, Mysore, Gulbarga and Bidar. The wakf board was in possession of 54,000 acres of registered land, valued at Rs 4.5 lakh crore, while another 20,000 acres remained unregistered.
The investigators found that of the 54,000 acres of land, 22,000 acres were sold off illegally.
In Bangalore, over 600 acre property in prime areas like Lalbagh and Hegde Nagar were sold.
The magnitude of the scam was revealed when the board allegedly sold off 2.3 acres of land near Lalbagh in Bangalore for Rs 1 crore, when the real value of the property was Rs 90 crore. The property, held by the Dargah Ataullah Shah Muslim Charitable Trust which falls under the purview of the wakf board, was sold to one H Bhavarailal.
The sale ended up in the court when the buyer claimed that the land belonged to him. But the seller contested the claim, stating that the land was leased out to a state-run company called HOPCOM. The high court ruled that the property could neither be sold nor leased as it belonged to the board.
The modus operandi was similar in the other cases. Members of the board and some ministers of the then Congress government were allegedly striking a deal with realtors.
These members issued the requisite no objection certificate for the land, stating that the board had no right over this property, and then sold the land at throwaway prices.
Another scam, in connection to properties on lease, has also surfaced. Prime properties owned by the board have been leased for a period of 99 years for a pittance of Rs 120 per year.
The board's land is meant to be leased out for charitable purposes, but in many cases professional colleges charging obscene fees as well as commercial complexes have been built on these properties.
The commission now wants the illegally sold/leased land back and the accused in the scam arrested. But the onus of taking any action rests on the state government, which will soon table the report in the assembly.
Meanwhile, the investigators will probe the role played by erstwhile ministers and wakf board members in the scam further.
They will also look into how the NoCs were issued and how properties were leased out to realtors.