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What’s the e-way land acquisition ‘scam’ for which Yogi govt has suspended Ghaziabad ex-DM

In 2017, a group of farmers had alleged that Ghaziabad magistrate officials acquired land from them in their relatives’ names & sold it to the state govt at much higher prices.

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New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Wednesday suspended former Ghaziabad district magistrate (DM) Nidhi Kesarwani over alleged irregularities in land acquisitions for the Delhi-Meerut Expressway and Eastern Peripheral Expressway. 

A 2004-batch IAS officer of the Manipur cadre, Kesarwani is presently on central deputation and is posted as director in Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. She served as collector and district magistrate, Ghaziabad (land revenue management and district administration) from 13 October, 2011, to 13 October, 2017, while on inter cadre deputation.

The suspension, the CM’s office tweeted, was in line with its “policy of zero tolerance against corruption”. The tweet further stated that Adityanath had ordered to refer the matter to the central government for initiation of departmental action.

It also said that an FIR should be lodged against the culprits, and that “a section officer and review officer of the appointment department will also be suspended for the delay in taking up the matter on the probe report”, while “departmental action will be initiated against the deputy secretary”.

“Nidhi Kesarwani used her position and knowledge of the construction of the expressway project to get her relatives to buy at cheaper prices and later sell those at much higher prices to the UP government,” Additional Chief Secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal told ThePrint.

Sehgal added that they are awaiting a response from the central government on the matter of Kesarwani’s suspension.

ThePrint has sought a comment from Kesarwani on the matter via email. This article will be updated when a response is received.

Also Read: As Haryana IAS officers launch battle of FIRs, hint of yet another Vij-Khattar showdown

The allegations

In 2017, a group of 23 farmers from Dasna, Nahal and Kushaliya — all of which fall within Ghaziabad district — filed a complaint with the UP government alleging that Ghaziabad magistrate officials acquired land from them for the Delhi-Meerut Expressway in their relatives’ names and sold it to the state government at around six times the rate. This, they claimed, was done after the project was notified, hence violating norms. The Delhi-Meerut expressway was notified in 2012. 

The officials allegedly purchased land from farmers at around Rs 1,700 and Rs 1,800 per sq. meter and sold it to the UP government at around Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 per sq. meter. 

According to a 2017 report in the Hindustan Times, then Meerut divisional commissioner Dr Prabhat Kumar, who had probed land acquisition in both expressways, said that the officials had made around Rs 20 crore purchasing land from farmers in their relatives’ names.

Built at a cost of Rs 8,346 crore, the 74 km Delhi-Meerut Expressway has been operational since last April. The project was constantly in the news as farmers protested and demanded hiked compensation for the land acquired from them for the ambitious project.

The 135-km, six-lane Eastern Peripheral Expressway, which was built at a cost of Rs 4,417.89 crore, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 27 May, 2018.

Inter-cadre transfer of Nidhi Kesarwani

Kesarwani’s inter-cadre transfer fell under the central government’s purview in concurrence with the state government, ordering transfer of an officer from one cadre to another. 

Inter-cadre transfers are usually done when two IAS officers marry, and an officer can request cadre transfer to that of his/her spouse, except for home cadre. Postings within the cadre fall within the purview of the state government.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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