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In Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, lips are sealed in government offices as far as the case of Mala Anand and Sushila Singh goes.
There is also a touch of amnesia. Everyone seems to have forgotten all the relevant details. Officials say the chief minister had made a statement and that is all that is available.
A meeting chaired by Chief Minister Digvijay Singh in Bhopal had decided to give about 51.87 acres of alternative land in Piprod village. It has already been transferred to the names of Sushila Singh and Mala Anand.
In lieu of the rest, compensation would be offered. The state government cannot give the whole 114 acres as that would violate the Rural Ceiling Act.
After Ram Jethmalani was sacked as Union law minister in July 2000, he wanted to table a statement in Parliament. But he was not allowed to do so. In the statement he had said the Chief Justice of India suspected that he was responsible for raking up the land controversy. Jethmalani also said he had called up the CJI and told him he had nothing to do with the publication of an article about the matter in a Delhi magazine.
In fact, he said he had got a note from the President's office drawing his attention to the controversy and so had looked into it. Jethmalani said he had requested the CJI to send a reply in writing about the case. The Chief Justice reportedly told him he would send his reply in a couple of days, but did not do so.
Soon after Jethmalani's dismissal, Digvijay Singh released a statement. It said he had decided to withdraw the special leave petition in the Supreme Court only because his law department had told him to do so. He said his law officers were of the opinion that there were no chances of success in the appeal and as it would have involved unnecessary expenditure, it was withdrawn.
With the sensitive case rocking the state, the Madhya Pradesh Seed and Farm Development Corporation decided to shut down operations on the Piprod farm. Today, just an old rusty board lays the corporation's claim to the land. Wild grass grows all over. With the mountains in the background and a stream flowing by, it looks idyllic.
K Parushram, secretary, agriculture, says the land is still in the corporation's possession and no one asked it to stop cultivating or hand it over. Beyond this, he does not want to discuss the issue.
Madhya Pradesh Agro Managing Director Iqbal Singh Bias told rediff.com that he would not discuss an issue that did not concern his department. He is a former managing director of the Farm Development Corporation and was in fact instrumental in stopping cultivation of the land and removing agricultural equipment and staff from the Piprod farm in 1999.
Says Jagmohan Singh, former regional manager of the Farm Development Corporation in Gwalior: "It is tragic to see such a flourishing seed farm destroyed. It is now just a patch of dry land. The government spent millions of rupees to develop it. It is a national loss."
It was a popular farm and farmers around benefited. Laments Shyamlal, a farmer in Fatyabad village in Chanderi tehsil:
"We were so glad to get good quality seeds. Now we have to go elsewhere. It is a pity the farm closed down."
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