As many as 797 white ration card holders -- whose monthly income is supposed to be less than Rs 5,000 per month -- allegedly bought land in Amaravati capital region worth crores of rupees, authorities in Andhra Pradesh have found.
The Enforcement Directorate has booked a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the basis of information shared by the state's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as part of an ongoing probe into land deals struck in the Vijayawada-Guntur region in 2014-15, when then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was pushing for a "futuristic" state capital at Amaravati.
PV Sunil Kumar, the Additional Director General of Police heading the CID, also wrote to the Income Tax Commissioner on suspect cash transactions carried out nearly five years ago. "While examining the land deals, it was found that some persons who do not even have a PAN card to their name and holders of white ration cards purchased lands by spending huge amounts of money. Most were cash transactions, which points to the fact that (those behind the racket) had not declared their income and were trying to avoid paying income tax to the government," the letter read.
White ration cards are given to those below poverty line.
The CID has shared details of the suspicious land deals such as the identity of the purchasers, the location and extent of the land, sale deed value and open market value with the Enforcement Directorate and tax authorities. Criminal cases have already been registered at the Mangalgiri police station under sections 420 and 506 read with 120 (B) of the Indian Penal Code, besides the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act.
The YSR Congress government in the state has already launched a probe into alleged insider trading in real estate in Amaravati. Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy said in the assembly that the government has evidence of Telugu Desam Party leaders and their supporters purchasing 4,000 acres of land in the region through June-December 2014, before the government declared it as the state capital.
Cases have also been filed against two former ministers, Pratipatti Pulla Rao and P Narayana, under sections related to criminal conspiracy, cheating, intimidation and the Prevention of Atrocities Against SC/ST Act, for allegedly forcing a Dalit to sell his land.
Hardly 268 of the 797 white ration card holders named in the case possessed PAN cards.
Chandrababu Naidu's proposal to establish a "futuristic" capital in Amaravati was scrapped after Jagan Mohan Reddy came to power. The state government is currently working on a tri-capital plan, which involves developing Vishakhapatnam, Amaravati and Kurnool into the executive, legislative and judicial capitals of Andhra Pradesh respectively.