Purchase of two different plots of land nestling next to the Bandhavgarh Wild Life sanctuary, over 500 kilometres from Bhopal, has been in the news because of the involvement of Zubin Fardun Irani, Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani’s husband.
While Zubin Irani purchased a plot in his own name, the second plot was purchased by a company in which he is a shareholder. The company, Markaz Hospitality Private Limited, which is just about 30 months old, has its registered office in Saidulajab (next to Saket), New Delhi.
The controversy arose because
The controversy has taken a curious course ever since it was reported that the Union Minister flew into Jabalpur towards the end of April and drove down to Kuchwahi to inspect the land. Local media reports to this effect were vehemently denied by the Umaria district administration without any apparent reason.
The Headmaster’s allegation that revenue records were changed and the descendants of the donor were allowed to sell part of the land without the knowledge of the villagers or the school needs to be probed.
That is because the Headmaster is in possession of an old revenue record (Khasra No 75) which described the plot as having a school building, a garden and the playground. At some point of time, the record was changed, he alleges, and the new record shows only the school building and not the garden and the playground.
Both the land deals were apparently facilitated by one Vijay Gupta, who had worked as assistant to former BJP MP from Rewa Chandramani Tripathi. He is presently the OSD to Union Minister Smriti Irani on whose behalf he had distributed 15,000 saris in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh.
Besides, the playground at Kuchwahi purchased by the company, Irani bought a hectare of land in another village Bijharia, three kilometres away. The seller of the plot, Pushpendra Singh, who lives in Rewa, told National Herald that he received a cheque signed by ZF Irani for ₹9.5 lakh although he was apparently “expecting a higher price”.
When this correspondent visited Markaz Hospitality’s office close to Saket, Delhi, it was found that the company is being run from an almost deserted house located at the end of a lane. There was no sign board displaying the name of the company anywhere.
The manager in charge of Markaz Hospitality, Saurabh, confirmed that the company was being run from the place. He also confirmed that the company has started construction in Bandhawghar and in Chhattisgarh but he refused to reveal further details.
Curiously, the Union Minister is learnt to have written a letter to the DM asking for a thorough probe into the land deal.