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Electoral Bonds Of Worth Over ₹11 Crores Purchased In Name Former Dalit Farmer, SBI Data Discloses

Election bonds totaling Rs 11 crore 14 thousand were bought on October 11, 2023, in the names of six Dalit family members from the unremarkable city of Anjar in Gujarat’s Kutch state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cashed bonds worth Rs 10 crore on October 16, 2023, while the Shiv Sena cashed bonds worth Rs 1 crore 14 thousand on October 18, 2023, according to SBI data made public by the Election Commission of India.

The Dalit family, however, now claims that a representative of Welspun Enterprises Ltd., a business associated with the Adani Group, “tricked” them into purchasing these election bonds. The Adani Group and Welspun Natural Resource Private Limited established the Adani Welspun Exploration Limited as a joint venture in 2005. A news release from the Adani Group states that AWEL is a joint venture (JV) having 65:35 ownership between the Adani Group and the Welspun Group.

“Welspun had acquired approximately 43,000 square meter of our agricultural land in Anjar for a project. This money was part of the compensation we were given as per law. But at the time of depositing this money, Mahendrasinh Sodha, a Senior General Manager at the company, told us that such a huge amount can result in trouble with the income tax department…He then introduced us to the electoral bond scheme, which he said would ensure that we get 1.5 times the amount in a few years. We are illiterate people. We had no clue what this scheme was but at that time it sounded very convincing,” Haresh Savakara, 41, alleged to the news agency.

Savakara Manvar, one of the six family members who allege they were duped into buying the bonds, is the father of Haresh.

Savakara filed a report about the issue with the Anjar Police Station on March 18, 2024.

According to a copy of the complaint, the accused in the case are Hemant, also known as Danny Rajinikanth Shah, the BJP’s Anjar City President, Mahendrasinh Sodha, the Senior General Manager at Welspun, Vimal Kishore Joshi, the Anjar Land Acquisition Officer, and Welspun Directors Vishwanathan Kollengode, Sanjay Gupta, Chintan Thaker, and Praveen Bhansali.

The cops have not yet filed a formal complaint over the matter. The case’s investigating officer, Shailendra Sisodia, stated, “He sent us an application. We continue to investigate it. We will file a formal complaint (FIR) after the inquiry is complete, if the case warrants it.”

The complainants claimed that in August 2023, the district administration approved the sale of their agricultural land to Welspun for Rs 16,61,21,877 (sixteen crore sixty one lakh twenty one thousand eight hundred seventy seven). Their complaint was directed to the Inspector of Police at the Anjar Police Station.

“Of this Rs 2,80,15,000 (two crore eighty lakh fifteen thousand) were paid in advance while the remaining Rs 13,81,09,877 (thirteen crore eighty one lakh nine thousand eight hundred seventy seven) were transferred to seven joint holders of the acquired land,” mentioned the complaint.

The complainants further alleged that “between 1 October 2023 and 8 October 2023, Welspun employee Mahendrasinh Sodha who was involved in the acquisition process, held four meetings with Savakara and his son Haresh at Welspun’s Guest House in the company’s compound and convinced them to invest money in the electoral bond scheme citing income tax trouble and handsome returns.”

The dates on which funds were initially credited to the family members’ accounts and then deducted at SBI’s Gandhinagar branch have been verified by the reporter through the examination of bank receipts. He has also seen copies of the family’s bond purchases.

Savakara further claimed in his complaint that Hemant Rajinikanth Shah, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Anjar City, attended these sessions.

While speaking to the news agency, Shah, however, claimed that he is neither aware of these meetings nor the case. “I have no idea what this case is,” he said.

The Manvar family began cultivating the property in October 2022, and the process of acquiring it began then. The land was evaluated at Rs 17,500 per square metre by a district-level Land Acquisition Committee led by the Collector, according to Govind Dafada, an Anjar-based attorney representing the Manvar family.

“In line with the Agricultural Land Ceiling Laws of Gujarat, a Land Evaluation Committee headed by the District Collector set a value of Rs 17,500 per square meter on the land which was held by the Manvar family. The total compensation was estimated to be close to Rs 76 crore but Welspun wasn’t willing to pay this huge sum. Hence, the process was stalled for a year,” Dafada alleged to the news agency.

These rules, which established a land “ceiling” on the amount of land that an individual or business may own and permitted the government to redistribute surplus land to the landless, were passed in the 1960s following the dissolution of the zamindari system. States all throughout India have amended their laws multiple times in the last few decades.

“If the process of acquisition is not completed within a year of the committee deciding the acquisition rate, the process lapses and it has to start again. In this case, however, just before the process was about to lapse, Mehul Desai, then Deputy Collector of Kutch stepped in and re-negotiated the deal to bring the value of the land down to Rs 16,61,21,877 (sixteen crore sixty one lakh twenty one thousand eight hundred seventy seven),” Dafda further alleged.

The news agency has seen the revenue department documents stating the same.

Gujarat’s ceiling laws stipulate that the government is entitled to a premium rate of forty percent on any surplus land acquired by public organisations that is allocated to the landless.

This implies that the Gujarat government would have earned Rs 30.4 crore and the Savakara family would have received Rs 45.6 crore if the land had been sold at the initial Rs 76 crore value determined by the Acquisition Committee.

“The Deputy Collector is not authorised to head the Land Acquisition Committee, how did he do this?” asked Dafada.

“I don’t have (any) information about the allegations or the matter but would assure you that none of the allegations are true as all the legal provisions (rules and regulations) of the land acquisition act are followed,” Mehul Desai, who was then posted as the Deputy Collector, said in an interview with the news agency. The “Consent Award” (Section 23) that you referenced was made, and all legal requirements—including the consent of both parties—were met. There is no possibility of paying farmers less because the committee you described is unrelated to the relevant acquisition process. I also recall that, following the proper procedures, I personally gave them the cheques.”

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