Trinamool, CPM silence over Vedic Village deepens mystery

via Saugar Sengupta | Kolkata -Daily Pioneer published on September 5, 2009

In an intriguing departure from the usual state of political affairs in West Bengal, the multi-crore Vedic Village scam has not triggered any exchange of barbs between the ruling Left Front and the Opposition Trinamool Congress. The silence on both sides on a politically volatile issue seems to have added to the mystery.

After sustained media prodding, the ruling CPI(M) has pleaded innocence, passing all the blame on Trinamool Congress MLA Arabul Islam’s shoulder, while the legislator has stoutly defended himself stating Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was trying to frame him in the case.

The Vedic Village scam came to the fore after a stray gang war late last month, leading to a death and a subsequent retaliation by the local villagers who attacked the five-star resort and torched a whole cluster of luxury cottages.

Incidentally, Vedic Village has hosted celebrities and VVIPs like Amitabh Bachchan and Union and State Ministers, including Abdul Rezzak Mollah and Manab Mukherjee.

Later, the villagers poured their venom before the media alleging the Vedic Village, spread over 125 acres of agricultural land, had for the past one decade been using a local goon called Gaffar to arm-twist them into submitting their land to it. Gaffar has since been absconding, while the Vedic Village MD Raj Kishore Modi and a few of his staff have been arrested.

Vedic Village is situated in the northern fringes of Kolkata. The arrest of Modi has revealed a shady underbelly to the whole affair. According to the police, Modi has admitted to deals with the Government that “allowed the company to first regularise purchase of land beyond the ceiling and enter into an agreement to procure an additional 1,500 acre land for a township-cum-IT park.”

The incident triggered a war of words between the State Land and Land Reforms Minister Abdul Rezak Mollah and Housing Minister Gautam Deb; the duo were reined in by CPI(M) chief Biman Bose before they could spill the beans.

According to the Modis, the Land department had indeed stopped the mutation of the illegally acquired acres, most of which belong to the two-crop category. But considering Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s stress on IT, the Government went ahead with an out-of-the-court settlement with the companies giving them 99-year lease. This is because “the Calcutta High Court had backed our contention that such ceiling could not be increased and character of the land could be changed after the Modis had moved the court to get the land purchase regularised,” Mollah said.

Intriguingly, despite winning the case the State Government allowed the mutation process to go on. This, some leaders said, because the Chief Minister had already promised huge tracts of lands (reportedly 90 acres) to IT majors like Infosys and Wipro.

However, the Chief Minister whose office later claimed ignorance of the entire affair summarily stopped mutation of land purchased from farmers. While the CMO order looked like latching the doors when the horses had bolted inside, sources said the Government was not interested to deal with Modi’s company Diamond IT Links that had a huge stake in the Vedic Village.

To save his skin, the Housing Minister said, “Though the land had been taken and though the character of the land had been changed in many places there was no single case against HIDCO — the agency under his Ministry that handles construction of buildings in new townships, including IT parks.

The Minister maintained that though the Government should have kept an eye on forcible conversion of land, the Government machinery was not involved into it.

It is in this context that the name of Gaffar has come to the fore, sources said. Gaffar, a local goon, who rose from a slum and who now owns a palatial building in the vicinity is known to be a close associate of Arabul Islam, the Trinamool Congress MLA.

Islam is credited with a host of wins for his party in Bhangore and nearby areas. Gaffar, who has now gone underground, was reportedly hand-in-glove with Ajizul, the younger brother of Arabul.

The CPI(M) claims Arabul has been in various committees and “so were Trinamool leaders like Sadhan Pandey, Tarak Banerjee, Subrata Bakshi, Mala Saha and a local leader Joydeb Karmakar. No irregularity could have taken place without the knowledge of these leaders,” said Deb, claiming most of them had been big fund managers for the Trinamool Congress during the elections.

However, Banerjee claimed Arabul was innocent. “He is in the business just for a few years, but what these men were doing for the past 10-15 years when the Vedic Village was happening.”

In both the cases, the two sides have restrained their statements to explanation instead of taking the attack into the enemy camp, suggesting a “marriage of convenience,” experts maintained.

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