CBI is investigating allegations that some city officials, in collusion with ASI and National Monument Authority (NMA) officials, provided NOCs to private entities to erect residential and commercial buildings around centrally protected sites in the Walled City in exchange for monetary favours.
Ahmedabad became India’s first World Heritage City five years ago, but encroachments and tall buildings – many of which were built with illicit NOCs from the Archaeological Survey of India – threaten to damage the city’s heritage and position.
Sources said the CBI has requested documentation on 100 building sites between 2006 and 2018. An AMC official claimed seven developments, including apartments in Ravi Estate in Dudheshwar near Darya Khan Ghumat, had faked ASI NOCs.
Construction within 300m of an ASI-protected monument in the Walled City requires ASI NOC as per existing rules.
Between 2006 and 2018, AMC’s urban development department passed designs for 100 construction sites with ASI NOCs. An AMC official stated officials didn’t establish a method to verify NOC authenticity. “NOCs were forged or modified in various places to illegally enhance the height of the site,” claimed the official.
The CBI lodged a fraud case against three ASI personnel of Vadodara circle, Shivananda Rao, former superintending archaeologist; Arifali Agaria, senior conservation assistant; and Rajesh Johri, conservation assistant, last October. Two middlemen from Ahmedabad were also arrested. The ministry of culture complained about developments near Biwi ki Masjid and maqbara, both national treasures.
“In 2018, an Ahmedabad man paid Rs 30 lakh to an angadia in New Delhi for a revalidation letter signed by the then-Member Secretary of NMA, New Delhi for building on his property,” a CBI source said. The investigation revealed that Ahmedabad residents paid bribes of up to Rs 30 lakh to secure NOC letters for development near protected landmarks. The CBI served 132 people, including 8 government officials, with notices.
Three from ASI, one from NMA in Delhi, and four AMC officials along with twenty-five middlemen working for government officials and 100 others are under investigation for illegally getting NOCs, a Delhi CBI officer said.
“Accused committed irregularities by violating Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Act, while providing NOCs for construction, extension for construction, and reconstruction in restricted and regulated areas of centrally protected monuments,” a CBI source said.