Sunday, July 3, 2011

News Article: Uttarakhand gifted Ramdev fertile tracts


Yoga guru Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth has been given fertile tracts of land by the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttarakhand.

Documents accessed by The Sunday Guardian show that in 2008, when Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri was Uttarakhand Chief Minister, the state government allotted 50 hectares of land to Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust in Aurangabad, Bahadurpur and Shantarshah. The land was given to develop an herbal medicine manufacturing unit and laboratory through government order number 56/18(1)/16/07/08.

The Khanduri government gave another 56 hectares of land to Pantajali Yogpeeth Trust in Mustafabad for the setting up of an herbal medicine factory through order number 139/18(1)/08/07/08.

In 2010, Khanduri's successor Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank allotted another 155 hectares of land to Patanjali University and Yogpeeth Trust at Aurangabad and Shivdaspur through order number 57/XVIII(II)/10. Nishank also visited Baba Ramdev at his Patanjali Yogpeeth on 5 June and assured full cooperation from the state government in his agitation against corruption and black money.

An Uttarakhand NGO, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) has asked the Chief Minister to investigate these land deals. The NGO claims that successive state governments since 2005 have helped Baba Ramdev in creating his vast empire.

"The Baba is the creation of N.D. Tiwari (of the Congress) and the BJP state government. When farmers and village panchayats complained about these acquisitions, the government gave them a token promise of investigating these deals. These fertile tracts of land were given away at a throwaway price. How can any state go against the law and favour certain individuals?" Avdhash Kaushal of RLEK asked.

Similar land allotments by different state governments have been criticised by the Supreme Court. Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra said in an order in January 2011 that common village land was being grabbed by using muscle, money and political clout.

"In many states Government orders have been issued by the State Government permitting allotment of Gram Sabha land to private persons and commercial enterprises on payment of some money. In our opinion all such Government orders are illegal, and should be ignored," said the order.

When asked, Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said, "The mask has been removed regarding who the real forces behind Ramdev and his movement are. Both home ministry and finance ministry are aware about such issues and they will take appropriate measures."

However, speaking to The Sunday Guardian, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar asserted, "The Congress has gone berserk. They have lost balance and sense. First they welcome him and later call him a thug. It is in fact the Congress which is fooling the people. If the government wants to investigate Ramdev's property and land deals they should ask Baba about it. The BJP has nothing to do with it."

Despite repeated attempts by this newspaper, the district magistrate of Haridwar, who is investigating the deals, could not be reached for comments.

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