The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salt Lake heat on govt

Calcutta, Dec. 21: The Opposition today demanded a white paper on the alleged Salt Lake land allotment scam involving the Jyoti Basu government.

The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government today came under a combined attack by Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress and the Congress. The parties alleged in the Assembly that the Basu government played favourites while allotting plots in Salt Lake from the chief minister's quota.

'There prevails confusion regarding the criteria for the distribution of plots in Salt Lake,' said Trinamul's Saugata Roy. 'The general perception is that people either close to Basu or the ruling CPM and its allies were the main beneficiaries. It is time the chief minister allowed the tax payer a cogent idea about how the government allotted or still allots land to individuals and joint sector housing companies.'

Roy was joined by party members like Deepak Ghosh, one of the complainants whose petition in the Supreme Court had led to a tough judgment on the allotment to former Calcutta High Court judge Bhagabati Prosad Banerjee.

The former judge, found guilty of preserving self-interest while hearing a case on the violation of Salt Lake's master plan and delivering a pro-government order, has been told by the apex court to vacate his Salt Lake house. The government has been asked to auction the plot and the building.

'You (the government) had allotted 159 plots in a single day after the 1987 Assembly polls to select beneficiaries. I have reasons to believe that several such beneficiaries got more than a plot each. Certain beneficiaries were given land even though they had property in Calcutta. Those who were able to please or oblige Basu were given plots. I could not, so I did not get any, though I had appealed to the chief minister several times,' Ghosh said.

Soon after the Assembly went into session, Roy moved a motion pointing out that several bureaucrats, including three former chief secretaries, judges, police officers and political leaders had been allotted plots. He also wanted to know the details of prime plots that had been allotted to joint sector housing companies.

'We think the practice (involving the housing companies) is far from transparent. These promoters and developers are shown undue favours and given land without tenders at low prices,' Roy said.

The government declined comment on the white paper on the grounds that the issue was pending in the Supreme Court, but contested the Opposition's charges regarding joint-sector projects.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said: 'We are far more transparent than you care to think. There is a high-powered committee that oversees the selection and working of the joint-sector companies. Each party is selected through open tenders after its financial and technical capability is verified.'

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