Thursday, November 22, 2012

GHB’s callousness to cost state Rs600 cr

Jitendra Dave l Ahmedabad
It is strange that the Narendra Modi government has turned to the Gujarat Housing Board (GHB) to give a fitting reply to the Congress’ poll promise of affordable houses to the people of the state. The GHB has not built one apartment in the last 12 years, a period which coincides with the reign of Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat.
The GHB, which was mandated to provide affordable housing to the middle class Gujaratis, is today completely defunct. Widespread corruption in the organisation and neglect by the state authorities have drained the board of all vitality.
The most common form of corruption that has wrecked its financial health is the collusion of board officials in allowing conveyance (transfer of property) deeds to be executed even when the original buyer still owes the board money as
unpaid rent and penalty.
The situation today is such that the housing board needs to recover around Rs600 crore as rent and penalty from beneficiaries of the housing schemes it had launched over 12 years back. DNA investigation has revealed that the employees of the board who are responsible for recovering the pending dues are actually the people who have facilitated, for a consideration, the execution of the fraudulent conveyance deeds.
Once a house or apartment is thus transferred, the unpaid rent and penalty is never paid and fake documents falsely place on record that the unpaid dues had been collected.
Recently, two cases came to light in which the conveyance deed was executed to the original beneficiaries without first recovering unpaid amounts from them.
Pragna Nitin Gajjar, a resident of 251, Asopalav Apartment on Sola Road, got the Gujarat Housing Board to execute a conveyance deed in her favour despite the fact she owes the board Rs12.64 lakh.
Mithilesh Rishikumar Gupta, a 60-year-old resident of 260, Shiv Park in Gota, has become a victim of corruption in the board. She has submitted an affidavit alleging that nine employees had taken Rs4.30 lakh from him to settle her account ostensibly to give her a ‘no dues’ certificate.
Reliable sources claim that these are not isolated cases. There are thousands of other apartments for which conveyance deeds have been executed without recovering the pending dues.
The sources said that of the Rs600 crore that the housing board needs to recover from the beneficiaries, Rs 100crore has certainly been lost for ever as they were fraudulently written off by board officials themselves. There is not much hope about the recovery of the remaining Rs500 crore either. Realistic employees of the board said that the Rs500 crore too will be lost because of the corruption in the board.Incidentally, GHB used to be among the richest boards in the state with 541.9 acres land bank in 24 cities and towns of Gujarat. Chairman of GHB and senior BJP functionary Jayanti Barot refused to respond even a fortnight after “inquiring” into the matter. GHB’s housing commissioner AK Rakesh and secretary of Urban Development Department IP Gautam failed to respond to repeated e-mail queries on the subject. GHB’s assistant housing commissioner BN Patel too prevaricated. “The issue falls under the purview of the estate officer. We are concerned about policy decision and do not look into such incidents,” said Patel.
Urban development and urban housing minister Nitin Patel said that he was not aware of any such practices as hundreds of letters flow into his office everyday and the concerned department is informed about it. It may be mentioned here that people chosen for allotment of residential units by the board after a draw of lots are allotted the units on rent. The beneficiaries have to continue paying the rent till the total amount paid by them equals the price of their respective units as fixed by the board. After that they don’t have to pay rent and the property is transferred to them through a conveyance deed. Unfortunately, a vast majority of beneficiaries discontinue paying rent after some time and, as a result, a huge amount gradually accumulates against their names as pending dues. The board has to recover the dues along with penalty which, unfortunately, rarely gets done. In most cases, the original beneficiary sells off the unit in violation of the rule that a person allotted a GHB unit cannot sell it for 15 years. The new buyer gets the property transferred to his name without first clearing the pending dues.

Gujarat EDN
AM 23AUG2012