Probe launched into Rajashthan fort's auction

Jaipur, July 27 (IANS) A probe has been launched into the alleged goof-up that led to the auction of a 16th century fort near the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, government sources said Saturday.

Authorities in Rajasthan revoked the auction after they learnt that the heritage property belonged to the forest department.

The auction for the 400-year-old Thanagazi Fort in Alwar had been held recently. A property dealer, Ramesh Meena, won the bid at Rs.7.01 crore.

The Thanagazi fort is situated on a hilltop, some 150 km from Jaipur, and belonged to the Maharaja of Alwar before the state government took it over in the 1960s. The fort is merely 40 km from Sariska Tiger reserve which is home to about nine majestic cats and is a major tourist attraction.

"A district administration committee in Alwar had approved the auction a few months ago along with 154 other properties. We organised the auction Tuesday and Wednesday," said a district administration officer on the condition of anonymity.

On the first day Tuesday, the fort fetched a maximum bid of Rs.2.6 crore. However, the officials felt that the heritage property was worth more then this.

"On Tuesday, Ramesh Meena who is an Alwar-based property dealer, placed a bid of Rs.7.1 crore and won. The second highest bidder lost by Rs.1,000," said the officer.

Meena deposited the token amount of Rs.85,000 after winning the auction Wednesday.

The goof-up came to light when the forest department faxed documents claiming authority over the fort.

"As the fort belonged to forest department, auction by the district administration was illegal and had be annulled,"said the officer.

The officer said that after revoking the auction, the district administration has now ordered an investigation into the matter.

"Prima-facie, it came up that as per a state government order issued in 1999, the Thanagazi Fort had to be transferred to the forest department," said the officer

He added that however, the revenue records with the district administration showed the property belonged to the Public Works Department (PWD).

A district administration committee will investigate why the appropriate changes were not made in the revenue records even after the state government's order to hand over the fort to the forest department.

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