ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Electoral Bonds: Gujarat Dalit Farmer 'Tricked' Into Donating Rs 10 Crore to BJP

In his complaint, the farmer has named Welspun Group officials and BJP's Anjar President Hemant Rajinikanth Shah.

Published
Politics
5 min read
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large

Video Editor: Kriti Saxena

Before you read this, here's a personal appeal. If you like our journalism, support us by becoming a member. Your support will help us continue to tell stories that matter to you.

On 11 October 2023, electoral bonds worth Rs 11 crore 14 thousand were purchased in the name of six members of a Dalit family from Anjar, a nondescript city in Gujarat's Kutch district.

As per SBI data released by the Election Commission of India, of these, bonds worth Rs 10 crore were encashed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 16 October 2023 and those worth Rs 1 crore 14 thousand were encashed by the Shiv Sena on 18 October 2023.

The Dalit family, however, has now alleged that they were "tricked" into buying these electoral bonds by an official of Welspun Anjar SEZ Ltd, a company under the Welspun Group.

"Welspun had acquired approximately 43,000 square meter of our agricultural land in Anjar for a project. This money was part of the compensation we were given as per law. But at the time of depositing this money, Mahendrasinh Sodha, a Senior General Manager at the company, told us that such a huge amount can result in trouble with the income tax department...He then introduced us to the electoral bond scheme, which he said would ensure that we get 1.5 times the amount in a few years. We are illiterate people. We had no clue what this scheme was but at that time it sounded very convincing," Haresh Savakara, 41, alleged to The Quint.

Haresh is the son of Savakara Manvar, one of the six members of the family that claims they were tricked into purchasing the bonds.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Savakara, on 18 March 2024, submitted a complaint regarding the matter to officials at the Anjar Police Station.

A copy of the complaint seen by The Quint names Welspun Directors Vishwanathan Kollengode, Sanjay Gupta, Chintan Thaker, and Praveen Bhansali as the accused in the case along with Mahendrasinh Sodha (Senior General Manager at Welspun), Vimal Kishore Joshi (Anjar Land Acquisition Officer), and Hemant alias Danny Rajinikanth Shah (BJP's Anjar City President).

The police is yet to register an FIR in connection with the case. Speaking to The Quint, Shailendra Sisodia, the Investigating Officer in the case said, "He has sent us an application. We are still looking into it. Once the investigation is done, and if the case merits an FIR, we will file one."

What Does The Complaint Say?

In their complaint addressed to the Inspector of Police at the Anjar Police Station, the complainants alleged that in August 2023, the district administration approved the sale of their agricultural land to Welspun for Rs 16,61,21,877 (sixteen crore sixty one lakh twenty one thousand eight hundred seventy seven).

"Of this Rs 2,80,15,000 (two crore eighty lakh fifteen thousand) were paid in advance while the remaining Rs 13,81,09,877 (thirteen crore eighty one lakh nine thousand eight hundred seventy seven) were transferred to seven joint holders of the acquired land," mentioned the complaint.

The complainants further alleged that "between 1 October 2023 and 8 October 2023, Welspun employee Mahendrasinh Sodha who was involved in the acquisition process, held four meetings with Savakara and his son Haresh at Welspun's Guest House in the company's compound and convinced them to invest money in the electoral bond scheme citing income tax trouble and handsome returns."

The Quint has seen bank receipts to corroborate details of dates on which money was first credited to the accounts of the family members and later debited at SBI's Gandhinagar branch. We've also seen copies of bonds purchased by the family.

Savakara, in his complaint, also alleged that BJP Anjar City President Hemant Rajinikanth Shah was part of these meetings.

While speaking to The Quint, Shah, however, claimed that he is neither aware of these meetings nor the case. "I have no idea what this case is," he said.

0

Why The Land Deal Itself Is Under Scanner 

The process of acquisition of land which was being cultivated by the Manvar family started in October 2022. As per Govind Dafada, Anjar-based lawyer representing the Manvar family, a district-level Land Acquisition Committee headed by the Collector had valued the land at Rs 17,500 per square meter.

"In line with the Agricultural Land Ceiling Laws of Gujarat, a Land Evaluation Committee headed by the District Collector set a value of Rs 17,500 per square meter on the land which was held by the Manvar family. The total compensation was estimated to be close to Rs 76 crore but Welspun wasn't willing to pay this huge sum. Hence, the process was stalled for a year," Dafada alleged to The Quint.

Enacted in the 1960s, after the abolition of the zamindari system, these laws set a limit on how much land an individual or corporation could hold, also known as a land 'ceiling', and allowed the government to reapportion surplus land to the landless. Over the past decades, several amendments were made to the laws by states across India.

"If the process of acquisition is not completed within a year of the committee deciding the acquisition rate, the process lapses and it has to start again. In this case, however, just before the process was about to lapse, Mehul Desai, then Deputy Collector of Kutch stepped in and re-negotiated the deal to bring the value of the land down to Rs 16,61,21,877 (sixteen crore sixty one lakh twenty one thousand eight hundred seventy seven)," Dafda further alleged.

The Quint has seen the revenue department documents stating the same.

According to Gujarat's ceiling laws, whenever surplus land allocated to the landless is acquired by public entities, a premium rate of 40 percent is set for the government.

Which means that if the land was sold at the initial value set by the Acquisition Committee, which was Rs 76 crore, the Gujarat government would have received Rs 30.4 crore while Rs 45.6 crore would have gone to the Savakara family.

"The Deputy Collector is not authorised to head the Land Acquisition Committee, how did he do this?" questioned Dafada.

Speaking to The Quint, Mehul Desai, who was then posted as the Deputy Collector, said, "I don't have (any) information about the allegations or the matter but would assure you that none of the allegations are true as all the legal provisions (rules and regulations) of land acquisition act are followed. The award which you mentioned was  "Consent Award" (Section 23) and all the necessary process (consent of both the party) as per law were followed. The committee which you mentioned is not related to the concerned aquisition process so there is no chance of giving less compensation to farmers. Also I remember that I have personally handed the cheques to them after due process."

(The Quint has reached out to other companies and individuals mentioned in this story. It will be updated when we hear from them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and politics

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
×
×