House of PM Awas geolocated 5 times, last payment made a week before the bulldozer demolished it
Our position is very clear. It was an encroachment on government land and we followed all due process and removed it.
This is Khargone district collector Anugraha P at The Indian Express when asked about the April 11 demolition of Hasina Fakhroo’s house built under Prime Minister Awas Yojna (Urban), as first reported in this newspaper .
A month after the demolition, claims of ‘due process’ do not match what happened on the ground, an investigation by The Indian Express into land records, tehsildar orders, bank statements and sequence of events before the bulldozer arrived on April 11.
This shows that Hasina’s house has been geolocated five times in accordance with PMAY guidelines; her photos have been posted online at every key stage of construction, two showing the beneficiary (her and her son) standing in the doorway. Bank statements show that Rs 2.5 lakh was paid, in installments, into Hasina’s bank account at regular intervals for a year.
In fact, it was only after four rounds of geo-tracking and the transfer of Rs 2 lakh to the beneficiary’s account, that the first encroachment notice was issued to Hasina by the Nagar Tehsildar.
She denied the charges and on March 10 this year, the court in Tehsildar ordered its illegal construction. Yet even after this order, a payment of Rs 50,000 was credited to his account and Hasina’s house was demolished just four days – including a weekend – after the second notice on April 7.
This, she said, left her no time to appeal the order to the SDM or the High Court.
That the demolition took place the very day after a communal clash in the neighborhood, according to the administration, is pure coincidence. Ironically, another house of PM Awas Yojana was damaged – this one belonging to Leela Bai Chhagan Lal, stoned by a mob. But more of that later – the demolition is now the subject of a Supreme Court case.
Geolocation and payments
Records seen by The Indian Express show Hasina’s house has been geotagged
five times on Bhuvan HFA (Housing For All) app – a platform of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Geotagging is a process of adding an exact geographical identification to various media, including photographs:
- The first geo-tagging of the Hasina plot took place on July 22, 2020 by an “observer” from a Gurgaon-based company, Egis India Consulting. The photo uploaded to the Bhuvan app shows her son, Amjad, standing outside their tin-roofed house at “7, Khaskhaswadi” in Khargone. The details uploaded by the observer indicate that the house was “Kachcha (grass or thatch or tarp or wood)”, “occupied” by the beneficiary.
- The second geo-tagging was done after the construction reached the foundation and plinth level on January 24, 2021. The photo uploaded to the Bhuvan app shows the door and window frame in the front wall.
- The third geo-tagging was done on January 27, 2021 when the construction reached the lintel stage.
- When the roof was ready, the fourth geo-tagging took place on May 10, 2021, and the “watcher” uploaded a photo of Hasina standing in front of the house with building materials around her.
- The fifth and final geo-tagging was done on November 3, 2021 when the house was completed. The uploaded photo shows Hasina standing in front of her newly built house. The front wall of the house bore a stamp from the scheme showing the beneficiary’s name and ID and mentioning that the house was approved in 2019-2020 and built with a grant of Rs 2.5 lakh.
Egis declined to comment.
Payments were tied to geolocation. Records show that the first installment of Rs 1 lakh was paid into Hasina’s bank account on October 28, 2020; the second of Rs 1 lakh was credited on March 31, 2021 and the last installment of Rs 50,000 was credited on April 4, 2022.
Records show that during the construction period – between January 24, 2021 and May 10, 2021 – geotagging recorded that electrical, water and sewage connections were not available on site. However, once the house was completed, all of these connections were provided.
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Hasina’s house was constructed as part of the construction of 1480 housing units in Khargone for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) under the Beneficiary Led Construction (BLC) vertical of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana- Urban.
Under the BLC, the eligible beneficiary must have ownership rights to land or a patta or property tax receipts of the plot where the beneficiary wishes to build the house. In this case, Hasina’s house was approved by Nagar Palika, Khargone based on tax receipts.
Incidentally, paragraph 7.8 of the program guidelines, issued by the Center to all states, mandates geotagging for surveillance. The guidelines also require state authorities to record “whether it has been ensured that the selected beneficiaries have rightful ownership of the land”, and it is the responsibility of the local urban body to verify the information provided by the beneficiary and verify their eligibility.
When contacted, officials at Nagar Palika, Khargone, claimed that “the geolocation was done by a third-party agency” and they did not provide further details.
Notice to Hasina
After four rounds of geo-tracking and transferring Rs 2 lakh to the beneficiary’s account, records show, the first notice was issued to Hasina by the Nagar Tehsildar, Khargone on September 17, 2021.
This notice alleged that the family had encroached on government land, under Khasra No. 379, measuring 900 square feet – a pucca house with an area of 12 × 30 feet and a kachcha house with an area of 18 × 30 feet.
On September 28, 2021, Hasina replied saying that she, a “widow”, had “built the house on the said land for residential purposes for her family after it was approved in her husband’s name under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana”. She said her family had no other home.
On April 7, 2022, the Tehsildar (Khargone Nagar), informed the family that the Tehsildar court had issued an order on March 10, 2022 that the family had encroached on government land, measuring 900 square feet under Khasra No. 379 , Khaskhaswadi , Birla Marg, Khargone, without the approval of the competent authority.
Hasina and her son Amjad said they never received the March 10 order. When asked if the order was communicated to him, officials declined to comment.
On April 7, the court gave Hasina a three-day ultimatum to remove the encroachment, notify Tehsildar’s court in writing or the administration would remove the ‘unlawful’ encroachment and recover the cost of the removal. .
On April 9, the family responded to the notice that they had a kashcha house on the 900 square foot lot where they had lived for 40 years. She said she received a grant under the PMAY-U program with which she built her house. Therefore, she should not be kicked out of the house, Hasina said.
The very next day, clashes erupted during a Ramnavami procession and at least 10 houses were burnt down 1 km from Hasina’s house.
The next day, his house was one of a dozen structures, demolished by the administration.
Hasina says: “Jab todna tha toh hamari kothi kyon pass ki? (When it was to be demolished, so why did they approve our house?)”
Officials said the PMAY home had been approved for a different address, but declined to give details when asked about that address.
The Indian Express found three addresses in files linked to Hasina.
First, the demolished house is at Khasra 379, Khaskhaswadi, Birla Marg; in her affidavit filed on October 21, 2020, Hasina requested an “extension” of their home in Ward No. 11, Khaskhaswadi Mohalla. Hasina and her son say they are the same addresses – The Indian Express visited Ward No 11 and could not find any of Hasina’s homes.
A third address appears in a file dated November 2020, related to Hasina’s request for assistance under Rashtriya Parivar Sahayata Yojana, under which 20,000 rupees is paid on the death of the “main breadwinner” of a household living below the poverty line. This mentions Street No. 6 in Ward No. 11 of Khaskhaswadi. The Indian Express visited the area and locals said there was no number 6 street.
Of these discrepancies, an official said, “She built the house in a place that was not approved. She received the notice she should have stopped construction.
Asked why the geotagging was done and the payments made, the manager said: “It’s a third party issue, they contacted her directly.” Asked if she was aware that Hasina’s house was geotagged and that payments had been made to her account even as she received notices, collector Anugraha had no comment.