Push for Gujarat industry report

Rights activists are demanding that the Gujarat government make public the report of a commission that probed charges of corruption in land allotment to big industry during Narendra Modi's tenure as chief minister.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 9.03.16
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Modi

Ahmedabad, March 8: Rights activists are demanding that the Gujarat government make public the report of a commission that probed charges of corruption in land allotment to big industry during Narendra Modi's tenure as chief minister.

The M.B. Shah Commission had submitted its report in September 2013, but it is yet to be tabled in the Assembly.

Activists from the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Gujarat Social Watch, who had made the allegations of corruption, today called for the report to be tabled in the ongoing budget session and described the delay as a "breach of Act 167(B), under which the inquiry commission was appointed in 2011".

Former chief minister Suresh Mehta, who addressed the media along with the rights activists, said the government was displaying its "criminal mindset" and "cheating the people" by not honouring the promise it made while appointing the commission to look into 17 allegations.

The then Modi government, under fire for not appointing a lokayukta for many years, had set up the committee headed by Justice Shah, a retired Supreme Court judge, to probe allegations of corruption in allotment of land to big industry, including the Tatas, Adanis and Ruias.

In its notification, the state government had said "it is necessary in the public interest that the people of Gujarat must know whether there is any substance in the allegations... it is necessary to bring to the notice of the people of Gujarat as to what is the factual position in respect of each of the above allegations".

But eight Assembly sessions have lapsed since the report was submitted and it has still not been presented in the House.

In the public interest and for the sake of transparency, the government should make this report public. By not doing so it has breached the public trust, said Hemant Shah, a member of PUCL.

He said the rights groups had been pushing for the report to be made public since it was submitted. "We tried our level best to get a copy of the report. We filed three RTIs and did not get a proper reply," Hemant Shah said.

Hemant Shah said Anandiben Patel, who was minister of revenue and general administration then and is chief minister now, had in 2013 told the House the report was with the governor. The governor's office had denied this.

The first RTI application was filed with the office of Justice Shah, asking where the report was submitted. His office responded that it had been submitted to the general administration department, and the department confirmed it.

Anandiben told the House the report was with governor Kamla Beniwal. An RTI application was made to the governor's office, which replied on November 13, 2014, that it had not received any such report.

The third RTI application was made to the Gujarat Assembly secretariat, which on November 14, 2014, responded that it had not received the report.

"After we have exhausted all the available options, now, when the Assembly session is on, we chose to mount the pressure to demand that the report be presented. We expect legislators across parties to demand the same," he added.

A day before the 2012 Assembly elections were declared, the interim report was submitted, after which government spokesman Jaynarayan Vyas had claimed that the probe had cleared the Modi government. The commission has "found no illegality in land allotment", he said.

Mahesh Pandya of Gujarat Social Watch, who had filed the RTI applications, asked: "If the government has not indulged in corruption, why aren't they disclosing the contents of the report?"