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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

NOIDA allotted farmhouses in ‘questionable’ manner, loss of Rs 2,833 cr to exchequer: CAG | India News

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Noida: Farmhouse schemes launched in Noida during 2008-11 lacked requisite Uttar Pradesh government approvals, and allotments under them were done in a “questionable” manner, causing a loss of over Rs 2,833 crore to the exchequer, according to a new CAG report.

In the audit report tabled in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on Friday, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also flagged significant lapses in policies adopted by the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA), also called the Noida Authority.

The report highlighted lapses in general policies, planning, acquisition of land, allotment of properties and internal control in NOIDA which it said resulted in loss of crores to the exchequer.

Asked about the CAG’s audit, the NOIDA Authority said it was yet to study the report, which runs around 500 pages and covers years after 2005.

“Gaps in allotment which had been highlighted in the past are being streamlined now. There have been certain areas of concern pointed out in the draft report, some of which were agreed to by us while to some others NOIDA had presented counter facts also. Final report is yet to be studied,” NOIDA CEO Ritu Maheshwari told PTI.

“The detailed report is yet to be studied by us and we will take action as per the government’s directions to us,” the senior IAS officer added.

On allotment of farmhouse plots, the CAG noted that two schemes were launched during 2008-11 for plot allotment under which 18.37 lakh sqm area was allotted to 157 applicants.

“Audit noted that the farmhouse schemes were launched without prior requisite clearances and due diligence. The scheme of NOIDA was in contravention of the regional plan which permitted establishment of farm houses outside the abadi (inhabited) area,” the report read.

“The farmhouse category was introduced without GOUP (government of UP) approvals relating to Building Regulations,” added the report.

The CAG also flagged the “low and questionable fixation of reserve price” in the farmhouse schemes.

“NOIDA acquired agricultural land from farmers and made allotment of farmhouses in close proximity to well-developed areas with corporate offices having infrastructure that commanded a substantial premium in the real estate market,” it noted.

A joint physical verification of Sectors 126 and 127 was conducted by the audit team and management of NOIDA on December 6, 2019 to see the present status of development in the sectors.

In the joint physical verification, the sectors were found to be fully developed, the report stated and added that the minimum allotment area was 10,000 sqm with activities like swimming pool, dwelling unit, playground etc. Permitted.

“Though the beneficiaries of the allotment of farm houses were going to be entities/individuals who clearly did not lack the capacity to pay, the allotment rate fixed by the Authority was 3,100 per sqm compared to minimum land rate of 14,400 per sqm in 2008-09,” the CAG stated.

“Fixation of such low rates by NOIDA for allotment of farmhouses was highly questionable, did not serve public interest and led to undue favour of over 2,833 crore to the beneficiaries and corresponding loss to NOIDA,” it noted.

The CAG further flagged the “blatant violations” in allotment of farmhouse plots and noted that in the allotment of plots, it was observed that the Plot Allotment Committee (PAC) did not have any “objective and transparent criteria” for interview and assessment of the applications received.

“Allotments made on the recommendation of PAC reveal a blatant disregard for scheme guidelines and a willful role in concealment and misrepresentation of material facts, whereby ineligible allottees were made allotment of farm houses,” the report stated.

“Thus, the entire process of allotment of farm house plots, in the view of Audit, was a blatant exercise of allotting prime land to individuals for leisure use rather than in public interest,” it noted.

The CAG stated that “suppression” of multiple reports, repeatedly pointing out “discrepancies” in the allotment procedure indicates that NOIDA’s intention has been to regularise the allotment and shield the conniving officials rather than to take action against those who abused their fiduciary position to undertake and abet such irregularities.

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