A TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE
How Uttarakhand Govt gave Baba 644 acres at throwaway prices
New Delhi/Dehradun, June 6
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev currently hitting headlines for his crusade against corruption and billions of dollars Indian black money stashed in Swiss and tax heaven banks is a “big landlord”. The 47-year-old “Bal Brahmchari” Ramdev, who was born as Ramkrishna Yadav in Alipur village, district Mahendragarh (Haryana), ‘owns’ huge tracts of land, that includes 261.468 hectares (644 acres) , worth hundreds of crores at the current market rate, around his yoga headquarters in Haridwar.
Besides this, Ramdev had procured more land directly from the villagers ‘with the help of authorities.’ This had led to a farmers’ agitation. The farmers complained that they had been forced to part with the land at a very low price.The land was allotted by the BJP regimes in Uttarakhand, twice in 2008 and once in 2010. In 2008, Major General (retired) BC Khanduri was the chief minister of Uttarakhand. He was replaced by the current chief minister, Romesh Pokhriyal Nishank, on June 24, 2009. Ramdev’s close aide, Acharya Bal Krishna, told The Tribune that: “We had given adequate rates to the villagers but some vested interests instigated the villagers against us.”
He added that there was “no irregularity” in the land allottment by the government.
Uttarakhand revenue minister, Diwakar Bhatt, gave the information about land allottment in a written reply to a ‘star’ question of the Bahujan Samaj Party MLA from Haridwar, Surinder Rakesh, in the Assembly some time back. But it was ‘buried’ in a long list of other allottees.
When contacted, Rakesh said that the land was given to Ramdev’s institution at a price which was much below the market rates. At some places, Ramdev’s men had allegedly occupied the land in an unauthorised manner, but we got it vacated after an agitation.”
“At the current rate,” Rakesh said, “the total value of the entire land is over Rs 300 crore.” The acquisition of the land in Roshanabad in District Haridwar by the government in 2008 for Ramdev’s yoga ashram had led to an agitation by villagers.
Harak Singh Rawat, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, alleged that Ramdev was allotted agricultural land at various places in Haridwar and Roorkee for non-agricultural use at highly “concessional rates”. Demanding a CBI inquiry into Ramdev’s ‘misdeeds’, which, Rawat said, included “amassing property and evasion of stamp duty in the purchase of land”. Rawat alleged that the land of the villagers in Roshanabad tehsil was taken over by the government in connivance with Ramdev in violation of the law. Some of the land on lease to poor farmers could not even be sold as per the law.
The authorities had fined the Patanjali Yogapeeth in 16 cases of alleged stamp duty evasion, alleged Rawat observing that “in the name of yoga and ayurvedic medicines, Ramdev has been running a business enterprise”.
A reputed civil society leader of Uttrakhand, Avdhash Kaushal, said that: “Despite our best efforts the BJP-ruled state’s regime is not disclosing at what rate Ramdev was allotted land.”
“The question is why did the state government act like a real estate agent to acquire agricultural land and give it to Ramdev at concessional rates?” asked Kaushal, Chairman of Dehradun-based NGO, Rural Litigation and Empowerment Kendra (RLEK).(See box)
Recently, former pradhan of Aurangabad, A. B. Chauhan, during the Chief Minister’s ‘Janata Darbar’ complained that about 43 bighas of land in Yoga Village, spread over 100 acres, belonged to the village panchayat and Ramdev’s men had occupied it in an unauthorised manner. The CM had asked the district administration to look into it. Haridwar Sadar Sub-Divisional Magistrate Harvir Singh in his report found Chauhan’s allegation correct.
Ramdev formed the Divya Yog Mandir Trust in Kankhal, near Haridwar, in 1995. The aim of Ramdev’s flagship project in Haridwar, Patanjali Yogapeeth Trust, inaugurated in August 2006, is to build the world’s largest centre for ayurveda and yoga that includes facilities for treatment, research and a university.
In 2005, the yoga guru, who by then had turned into a cult figure and was addressed as ‘Swami,’ faced his first ‘political battle’. He had a bitter tiff with firebrand CPM Politburo member Brinda Karat, who accused him of using human skulls and animal parts to manufacture ayurvedic medicines, particularly those aimed at curing sex-related ailments, in his Haridwar pharmacy.
The Baba hit back, saying that Brinda was playing in the hands of multinational medicine companies to malign yoga and ayurvedic remedies. The Sangh Parivar had then come to his rescue in full strength.
In childhood, Ramdev had a paralytic stroke. He claims he overcame paralysis with yoga’s help but it left him with a permanent squint in one eye. After studying till the eighth standard, he joined Khanpur Gurukul in Haryana and took ‘sanyas’ and began teaching yoga. Ramdev now ranks among rich corporate magnates. His huge pharmacy is manufacturing a wide range of herbal products, from shampoos to creams. The pharmacy’ annual turnover is said to be worth over Rs 500 crore. His Haridwar ashram receives a large number of people from all over the country to stay at his posh guest houses. Charges for a one-day stay match any five-star hotel. Instead of issuing the stay bill, a ‘donation receipt’ is given.
The RLEK Chairman, Kaushal, said that “Ramdev has been created by both major political parties of our state-the BJP and the Congress. The testimony of this is the huge tracts of land that was allotted to him and as well as many other favours showered on him by successive state governments.”
Kaushal asked, “Has anyone bothered to know why a Union Minister for Tourism, Subodh Kant Sahay, was in the forefront as the Centre’s representative to deal with Ramdev?? The truth is their association goes back to when Sahay was earlier Union Minister for Food Processing.”
In association with the Union Food Processing Ministry, Ramdev some years ago had promoted the Rs 1,000-crore world’s biggest Patanjali Food and Herbal Park in Haridwar. Sahay then held the portfolio of food processing. “That is why, everyone in Uttarakhand is suspicious of Ramdev and Sahay’s close friendship. Of course, it was natural for Sahay to receive Ramdev at the Delhi airport some days ago,” explained Kaushal. “The
RLEK and other civil society members in Uttarakhand feel that the leaders of both the BJP and the Congress have a personal share in Ramdev’s growing business,” charged Kaushal. — (With inputs from SMA Kazmi in Dehradun)