Should MLAs be given BDA 50 x 80 sites for Rs 8 lakhs?

He refers to himself as a whistle-blower. At 70, his concern is for social justice "especially when local bodies are perpetrators".

Meet S Vasudeva, a practicing advocate in the Karnataka High Court, who has filed a number of public interest litigations (PIL) on various issues concerning Bengaluru.

s vasudeva

70-year-old S Vasudeva is an advocate with the Karnataka High Court. He has filed over 70 PILs in the city. Pic courtesy: S Vasudeva

"Government is meant for welfare of people. If they fail to provide basic neccessities, then who will?", he asks passionately. It is because of this that he filed a PIL with regard to the allocation of G-category sites to 66 MLAs and MLCs of Bangalore and across the state. G-category refers to BDA sites allotted at the discretion of the chief minister to eminent personalities.

His writ petition resulted in the High Court issuing a notice on February 2nd 2010 to the state government, BDA, Urban Development department and site allottees. Vasudeva says that the respondents are likely to respond within the next two weeks. He says the case itself may take six months or a year to close.

Now here’s how it all started. On February 28th 2009, the Urban Development department wrote to the BDA Commissioner, listing out the 66 MLAs and MLCs who were chosen to be given 50×80 sites and ordered the BDA to do so. The letter says that this allotment is as per Rule 5 of the BDA (Allotment of Sites) Rules, 1984 and the 1997 Revised Guidelines for allotment of stray sites by the BDA.

Vasudeva filed a petition on December 12th 2009, challenging these revised guidelines saying these MLAs are not eminent personalities and are therefore not entitled to receive these sites.

Vasudeva’s track record

  • Vasudeva has filed over 70 PILs. He recently filed a petition before the High Court seeking the state government and the BBMP to protect lakes in the city. The hearing of this case was adjourned.
  • It was way back in the late eighties that Vasudeva began his tryst with fighting for social justice when he filed a petition to save and protect public property in Dasarahalli in Jayanagar 6th Block. He says this is where Lakshman Rao Park in Jayanagar stands today. "Ramakrishna Hegde was the Chief Minister. He got this plot of 7.5 acres allotted for his son-in-law. It was called the Revajeethu scandal", he says. The case went up to the Supreme Court and finally ended in Vasudeva’s favour. "The 90 lakh sale deed was struck down", he says. Vasudeva says that it was after this that the Urban Land sealing Act came into being.

Vasudeva also claims that the former late Chief Minister even tried to buy him off offering him crores of rupees and even an apartment of his own.

  • Vasudeva also filed a petition in 2008 when government doctors in the state went on strike demanding salary revision. The High Court then passed a judgment banning government doctors from going on strike and stated that they do not have the right to strike as they fall under essential services.
  • In another case, he got the crematorium in Wilson Garden opened. This after it was shut down following complaints from nearby residents about air pollution. After Vasudeva filed a PIL, he says it was modernised and opened.

The petition says that some of the MLAs have been allotted sites for the second time. Also, as the government is allotting stray sites under G-category, Vasudeva’s petition says that the BDA Act of 1976 does not define ‘stray sites’ and therefore the BDA cannot presume that all residue sites remaining with them are stray and should be disposed off.

Through the petition, Vasudeva challenged Rule 5 of the Site Allotment Rules, 1984 which gives "absolute and unbridled power to the Chief Minister". Vasudeva also points out to the fact that 64 of the sites have been provided only to the ruling party MLAs and MLCs and not for others. He terms the allotment, "arbitrary, discriminatory, illegal and motivated by extraneous consideration".

The writ petition also refers to the two lakh people who have registered their names and deposited money for BDA sites. In spite of this, the BDA found it "convenient to overlook the applicants who are waiting in que (sic) and allotted sites to…current sitting members of the Assembly", says the petition.

"You and I will go pay money and apply for a BDA site. But we won’t get a site. These (politicians) people get so easily. 50X80 sites they are getting for 8 lakhs", Vasudeva explains. He says that the MLAs and MLCs have to pay Rs 8 lakhs deposit for 50×80 sites in the city. Going by market value, these sites could easily be sold for a price of Rs 1 crore and above today.

The petition demands Rule 5 to be struck down because it is against public interest.

BJP MLAs in Bangalore who have been allotted BDA sites under G-category

Dr C N Ashwath Narayan, Malleshwaram
S Suresh Kumar, Rajajinagar
Ravisubramanya L A, Basavanagudi
Dr D Hemachandra Sagar, Chickpet
M Krishnappa, Bangalore South
Muniraju S, Dasarahalli
Nandeesh Reddy, KR Puram
S R Vishwanath, Yelahanka

One Congress MLA from the city, N L Narendra Babu (Mahalakshmi Layout) has also been allotted a site.

According to the rules, MLAs and MLCs who have been allotted sites by the BDA also have to declare to the BDA if they or any family member owns a site or a house in the Bangalore Metropolitan Area or allotted a site or a house in the Bangalore Metropolitan Area, by the BDA or any other authority. Vasudeva’s petition says that this has also not been followed by any of the allottees or the BDA.

After the filing of this writ petition, the matter came up before the Assembly, where Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa "justifying his action admitted on the floor of the house that the S M Krishna government had allotted sites to 334 persons. The Dharam Singh government allotted such sites to 76 persons and H D Kumaraswamy government allotted such sites to 283 persons and Yeedyurappa government allotted 132 sites from April 1 2008 to December 14 2009."

Vasudeva’s petition said that this statement by Yeddyurappa proves that "he is a party to illegalities."

Following this writ petition, the High Court issued a notice to the state government, BDA and the other respondents to submit their statements with regard to the petition.

City MLAs speak up

Citizen Matters spoke to some of the Bangalore MLAs, each of who had their own take on the issue.

BDA Site Allotment list

Many MLAs have been allotted BDA sites under G-category. Click on pic to see a scan of a small part of BDA’s site allocation list.

Mahalakshmi layout MLA Narendra Babu (Congress) says that there is nothing wrong in giving sites to MLAs under G-category. He says it becomes a problem when more than one site is given to the same person. "Not everyone of us are born rich. I come from a middle income group family", he says, explaining that it is not incorrect to give these sites as long as the power isn’t misused. Babu gives the example of a former late MLA Lakshman whose wife was left with no source of income or house after his death. "These are the kinds of criteria you need to look at", Babu says.

Malleshwaram MLA Dr C N Ashwath Narayan (BJP) also agrees with Babu saying there’s nothing wrong with allotting these sites under the discretionary quote. Narayan, however, has not decided if he will accept the site. ‘Normally, whenever a site is allotted to MLAs, it’s normal for someone to object", he says, adding that it is common that an MLA receives a BDA site during his career. Narayan further says that if proper housing was provided for all citizens, no one would make an issue of this matter.

Narayan’s colleague, S Muniraju, MLA of Dasarahalli constituency, has a different story to tell. "I have not got any BDA site. I don’t know why my name is there. I never even applied for a site", he claims. Muniraju says that he even wrote to the BDA asking them if he was allotted a site under G-category. "The BDA has told me that I haven’t been allotted a site. I don’t know how my name has come up. I will go to court", he says.

Muniraju line of thinking is also different from the other MLAs. He is quick to say that giving sites to freedom fighters and sportsmen is not in question. On the other hand, "Dr Hemachandra Sagar (BJP MLA from Chickpet) has a lot of land, Dayanandasagar college and all. He has also been allotted a site. They are taking it", he points out sharply.

Muniraju’s starting point is that the Chief Minister has powers. "S M Krishna gave land for his driver. If the Chief Minister didn’t have power then it’s ok", he says. They have been giving these sites from before. Vatal Nagaraj has three, Mallikarjun Kharge has two. I already have land in Bangalore. I don’t require any more land", he adds matter-of-factly.

A trying case for the state government

With over 70 PILs to his credit, 70-year-old Vasudeva’s fight against injustice continues. Given his track record of winning a number of key battles against the state government in the High Court, this case of doling out BDA sites to members of the state legislative assembly and council may prove to be a predicament for the Chief Minister. ⊕

About Vaishnavi Vittal 139 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

11 Comments

  1. @anish – BDA sites need not be given to all MLAs, anyway there is enough discussion on that in the points above. maybe some accomodation(a house/flat), better pay/compensation is what is required.

    its interesting that you say BDA sites are for ‘people’. right now the government is making a BDA layout – kempegowda layout after taking land from farmers. some farmers are happy to part with their lands, but a lot or not, but the govt. is riding roughshod over their opposition and still going ahead , see this – http://www.thehindu.com/2010/02/28/stories/2010022853730400.htm

    i just felt we should all be aware also of how exactly these bda layouts get formed. The issue also is that when there are close to 20 lakh ppl atleast homeless(slums and urban homeless) one wonders why the govt. does not create housing for them and creates more 40*60, 50*80 sites which only the better off ppl can afford to buy.

  2. Its high time that MLA’s understand that they are in the business of serving the country and its people, and abusing any of the principles that bind their position should be considered with equal effect as how certain principles bind the judiciary. I don’t think MLA’s should ever be alloted BDA sites. BDA is for the people not for the ministers.

  3. Vaishanavi
    Never say that your column never heats up a discussion/debate. I guess all of us are on the same page as Vinay now…at least I am…and I say more powers to the likes of Vasudeva who holds the govt to account for its actions ..albeit through the courts.

    PS If the verification box for posting comments could also throw up some meaningful new words, I would be entertained and educated and you could have the verification :):)just saying, why waste an opportunity 🙂

  4. Dear Sanjay,

    I want to clarify that i didnt mean everyone should be given BDA site under discretionary quota. If we accept the idea of giving sites, it should be given in the constituency they get elected from.

    My arguments for sites was made with the prevailing pay structure for MLAs in mind. If pay structures are rationalised, then maybe we dont have to look at sites.

    Lastly, i agree with you that election expenses are a big cause of corruption.However even before these sort of high election expenses came in in the last decade or so we had corruption. By curtailing election expenses we will be removing a big cause of corruption, but not removing it fully.

    anyways, hope this discussion atleast makes us agree that there is a dire need to relook at compensation structures for all our elected representatives, at all levels.

  5. The discussion here that giving an MLA a site reduces corruption is insane. I would much rather look into and rationalize pay for elected representatives, if that is the root cause of corruption at all.
    A major contributor to corruption in our country is that it takes a lot of money to fight and win elections. We have heard the educated estimates of the order of crores. Much of this money increasingly comes from the candidates coffers. Then while the candidate is in power, he or she spends the time earning returns for that investment in winning and ensuring enough money is stocked up in case they are out of power for 2-3 cycles in the future.
    Forget the asset declarations which everybody recognizes as flawed and incomplete. Almost all elected representatives in power today have large assets. None of them is in need of a BDA site.
    Another way to look at this. Only 28 MLAs are from Bangalore. The rest of them are supposed to be at their home districts when the legislature is not in session – which is more often than not. Why do they need BDA sites?
    This allotment is another example of abused discretionary powers in our system – plain and simple.

  6. Of course we should take good care of all peopls representatives – gram panchayat reps to zilla panchayat reps, MPS, corporators, mlas etc. And yes, we can definitely look at the process and not just use discretionary allottment which is colvluted. and of course we have to decide, if we give MLA sites, should we give corporators and gram panchayat reps also also 😉

  7. I have no problems in paying MLA’s a nice and decent salary commensurate with the work they do…That should be addressed appropriately across the board for all MLA’s MP’s Corportaors, Gram Panchayath reps et al…but why go through a convoluted process of discretionary allotment of sites for them to be non-corrupt?
    I also think that a site allotment would make MLA’s non-corrupt is a bit far fetched. My opinion :)..

  8. Dear Vishwanath,
    Firstly there is no need to give a site to those who already have plenty. We can look at their asset declaration and decide an amount.

    Secondly, they are public servant allright, but they are paid very less as salary. If you are a government eengineer etc, you are paid far more than an MLA. Now if a honest person was to enter politics, s/he needs to do it full-time not as a weekend volunteer right? And you always cant guarantee victory so you might be a MLA of 5 years lose next time but still be politically active meaning no other income right? So atleast if they have a site (dont allocate it every time they win, just once would do, thanks!) they need not worry abt housing, so they will not resort to corrupt means, helping the rest of society right?

    Look – there are 224 MLAs. Over a period of 50 years , assuming we have 10 or even 12 differnt assemblies and assuming each time a different MLA gets elected too, we have to give 2240 sites. Over a period of 50 years, is it difficult to allot 2240 sites, considering that sites can be allotted from any constiuency across the state?

    If we cannot pay MLAs well and give proper benefits, where do you think they should earn their money from?

  9. By the same logic of Vinay Sreenivasa ,let us allot them two sites, this will further reduce corruption and if we allot them 10 sites worth 10 crores…for just 80 lakhs, complete corruption will be eliminated from the political system..:)
    More powers to the likes of Vasudeva, for fighting for equity, fairness and justice. We elect MLA’s to legislate on our behalf. They are public servants. They make a choice knowing fully well what they will have to sacrifice…otherwise let them put this in the political manifesto when they contest…allotment of sites, bungalows, cars, free travel, phone calls et al..and then let us choose as voters.

  10. As soon as I read your title question,I was shocked and my obvious answer would be “That is insane”. But I also second vinay’s thoughts as atleast in one aspect, it helps reduce corruption.

  11. Allocating sites to MLAs is a good idea. It will actually help reduce corruption. With the low salaries MLAs get, they are bound to reach for other incomes. On the other hand, if they are given a site, they can atleast feel secure about housing and hence not worry too much about income.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


Please solve this *