13th April 2012.
 
GANAV on the GANGES
 
Tout de suite following independence on 15th August 1947, India's new Government passed the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act -1947 (FERA.)   The act was passed inter alia to protect Indian lands from possession by shady foreign investors.  To this end the Act made clear conditions for foreign investment, specifying 'immovable properties'.  Here it is:

Purchase of Immovable Property in India by Foreign Citizens of Non-Indian origin/Foreign Companies

Foreign citizens of Non-Indian origin (whether resident in India or not) and foreign companies including trusts, societies and associations incorporated/ registered abroad will be permitted by Reserve Bank, on application, to acquire immovable property in India, provided the following conditions are satisfied.

NB.  The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., a New York religious corporation, was established by A. C. Bhaktivedanta in New York City in July 1966 as the first corporation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON.)  The Society was/is officially American. 

Conditions:

The property to be purchased is for residential use only.

The consideration for purchase of the property is met out of foreign exchange remitted from abroad in any convertible currency through normal banking channels

Income accruing by way of rent from the property purchased, or the sale proceeds of such property/income arising out of investment of such sale proceeds at any future date shall be credited only to the Ordinary Non-resident Rupee (NRO) account of the non-resident purchaser.

Applications for necessary permission for purchase of immovable property in India should be made in form IPI 1 together with the documents indicated therein to the Chief General Manager, Exchange Control Department, (Foreign Investment Division-III), Reserve Bank of India, Central Office, Mumbai 400 001.

So did ISKCON, a foreign society incorporated/registered abroad, comply with  Indian legal requisitions when purchasing land.  Referencing recorded memoirs published by ISKCON's official Press- the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, we present history of the first purchase of Indian land by the New York registered ISKCON organization:

"Prabhupada had sent two of his disciples, Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana, to purchase land in Mayapur. Six days had passed, however, and still they had neither returned nor sent word. He had told them not to return until they had completed the transaction, but six days was more than enough time. He was anxious.....[...]...

Why were Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana taking so long? It had been more than just a wait of six days; he had been trying to obtain land in Mayapur for years. And this time the prospects had been excellent. He had clearly instructed Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana, and now they should have returned. The delay could mean a complication, or even danger.

The land they were trying for was a nine-bigha* plot on Bhaktisiddhanta Road, less than a mile from the birthsite of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Sek brothers, Muslim farmers who owned the plot, had been asking a high price. Only recently had a Calcutta lawyer familiar with Navadwipa been able to seriously negotiate a fair price. The Sek brothers had settled for 14,500 rupees, and Prabhupada had authorized withdrawal of the funds from his bank in Krishnanagar. Thus Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana had left Mayapur, while Prabhupada had remained in Calcutta, carrying on with his affairs but thinking often of the activities of his disciples in Mayapur. Their mission was very important to him.....[...]....

Prabhupada wondered if perhaps his boys had been robbed. Before sending them off, he had shown Tamala Krsna how to carry money around his waist in a makeshift cloth money belt. But it had been a great deal of money, and robberies were not uncommon around Navadwipa....[...]...

Suddenly Prabhupada heard footsteps on the stairs. Someone opened the outer door and now walked along the veranda just outside. A soft knock.

"Yes, who is it?"
Tamala Krsna entered and prostrated himself before Srila Prabhupada.
"So, what is your news?"
Tamala Krsna looked up triumphantly. "The land is yours!"
Prabhupada leaned back with a sigh. "All right," he said. "Now you can take rest."

? Prabhupada Lilamrita (Calcutta, March 1971)

 
* In West Bengal, the Bigha was standardized under British colonial rule at 1600 sq.yd (0.1338 hectare or 0.3306 acre); this is often interpreted as being 1/3 acre (it is precisely 40/121 acre). In Metric units, a Bigha is hence 1333.33 m2.
 
What we note above are two Americans of Jewish descent, Tamal Krishna (aka. Thomas Herzig) and Bali-mardana (aka. William Berke,) who represent a foreign registered association, carrying 14, 500 Rupees in a makeshift cloth money belt, to buy agricultural land (in breach of FERA) from local farmers primed by a Calcutta lawyer familiar with Nvadwipa's ins-and-outs.   The purchase was carried out by ISKCON only a few short weeks after the American organization registered a branch in India under the Societies Registration Act (1860) and then as a "Public Charitable Trust" under the Bombay Public Trust (1950).
 
"ISKCON in India registered under the Societies Registration Act (1860) & registered on the 2nd January 1971 with Reg. No. BOM 225/70 GBBSD .
Subsequently on 29 March 1971 ISKCON registered as a Public Charitable Trust as required under the provisions of Bombay Public Trust 1950 with the Charity Commissioner, Maharashtra having registration no. PTR no. 2179 (BOM)."
 
FERA was amended by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's Government in 1973, then again repealed in 1999 by the Government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.  It now functions as India's major business portal- the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA.)   Through all amendments and changes one law has never been altered in anyway, i,e,  Foreign citizens of Indian origin whether resident in India or abroad, and most certainly...Foreign Citizens of Non-Indian origin/Foreign Companies, CANNOT acquire agricultural land/farm house/plantation property in India. 
 
Soon after purchase of the land, another American of Jewish descent, Jayapataka Swami (aka. Gordon John Erdman) was appointed Governing Body Commissioner and took control of the property.  Soon plans were laid to acquire hundreds of acres of prime farming land in Bengal,* establish Trusts and float land deals to foreign investors, build temples, private school, colossal samadhi, planetarium, several buildings (owned by foreigners,) timeshare apartments for Life Members/foreigners,** and retail outlets for business purposes?  All of this in keeping with the aspirations, ambitions and world domination program of the organization's founder- A. C. Bhaktivedanta. 
 
* Prabhupada: "We are attempting a big planetarium in Mayapur.  We have asked for government to acquire land, 350 acres.  That is negotiation going on.  We shall give a Vedic planetarium."
** Prabhupada: "Actually, our main business in this country (India) shall be to distribute our books profusely.  Mayapur, Vrindaban, these temples shall be utilized for the most part by foreigners." 
 
 
Here are some excerpts from the cult's Annual General Meeting 1980:

5. (ISKCON's) Mayapur development

1. Resolved that each aspect of the Sri Mayapur Development scheme be categorized and assigned to individual GBC representatives who will adopt those particular aspects as their personal responsibilities and as it were as extensions of their zone. In presence of these resolution the following areas have been assigned to the following GBC members:

a. Samadhi art work -Rameswara maharaja
b. Selection of master craftsman} -Gopal Krsna Prabhu for samadhi artwork for N.India}
(Note:Gopal Krsna Prabhu will take charge of selection of the best and reliable Indian craftsmen and art works manager for the samadhi construction)
c. Arranging for personnel for } samadhi construction site-in-charge } -Jaya Tirtha Maharaja
d. Architecture and planning -Kirtanananda Swami and Bhavananda Goswami
e. Hospital project -Jayadwaita Maharaja
f. BBT printing project -Bhagavan Maharaja
g. Spiritual Sky Incence factory -Jaya Tirtha Maharaja
h. Food production(papadams and acars) -Jayapataka Maharaja
i. Commercial development -Ateya Rsi Das
j. Dioramas factory-FATE -GBCs(Ramesvara Maharaja and Jaya Tirtha Maharaja)

2. Resolved that all manpower requirements not entering into any of the above categories will be filled through a general manpower committee consisting of Jaya Tirtha Maharaja, Ramesvara Swami, and Adi Kesava Swami. This committee will attempt to arrange required manpower from the society for the Mayapur Project. They will not be restricted only to their zones for this purpose.

4. Resolved: That all temples should try to at least send one representative along with as many men as possible to the Mayapur Festival to resist weakening of ISKCON

6. At the earnest request of His Divine Grace Jayapataka Maharaj, twenty-one temples decided to buy one acre each of Mayapur land at the cost of $1500 per acre.

http://gbc.iskcon.org/2012/02/03/1980-2/

So we can see how nine bighas of W. Bengal prime farming land in 1971, expanded enough to flog off twenty-one acres in 1980 to foreign investors.  But that was in 1980.  What we discover in 2011 is an amassing of agricultural lands in Mayapur by the cult ; lands floated in "Trusts" to even more foreign investment.  Here is a courageous declaration by ISKCON's Bangalore Temple President, who is under siege by Jayapataka Swami and Radhanatha Swami (Erdman and Slavin, both Americans of Jewish descent,) in a legal bid, sub judice, to take over Bangalore Temple property which was built by its breakaway Indian membership:

Madhu Pandit Das: "ISKCON Mayapur, ISKCON Mumbai and ISKCON Delhi also have several trusts functioning in their premises engaged in commercial activities. ISKCON Mayapur floated several trusts, nearly fifty of them, foolishly for the purpose of illegally circumventing the land ceiling laws of the West Bengal Government, where no single trust can hold more than about twenty acres of land. In fact, all the Mayapur lands, except a few acres surrounding where the temple is being built, are all now under the control of the West Bengal Government. The Government has found out that they have bought these lands in the name of these trusts just to circumvent the Land Ceiling Act. It is a big mess.
All the millions of dollars of BBT money that went into buying about 500 acres of land in Mayapur is under threat of seizure, if not already seized on paper by the Government. It is because of this goof up that the main temple is being built in the clear land in the name of ISKCON, the old fountain and park area, and not where it was planned.
Are the worldwide devotees aware of this failure of the GBC body in practically losing millions of dollars of BBT money donated to Mayapur during Harikesh's time to buy these lands, just by their foolish strategy? You cannot float trusts as a strategy to evade state laws. Sooner or later one will be caught. Even the source of funds for these lands are under scrutiny by government authorities. If what I say is not true, let the GBC clarify that they have not practically lost all the lands in Mayapur."
 
So was Madhu Pandit Das the only one aware of ISKCON's amassing and selling of farmlands in Bengal to execute the order's of its founding head- A. C. Bhaktivedanta?   We would say not.  Here below we draw attention to a posting from 2007, which clearly gives reason why ISKCON's management in Maypur set up Trusts, and that the then Government of Bengal was fully apprised of cult activity and breaches of FEMA Laws:

Mayapur Road Conflict Update

Sunday, 08 July 2007

"You may remember that two years ago more than 300 road workers with bulldozers showed up on the Bhaktisiddhanta road in Mayapur. They had an official order in their pocket to expand the road and remove all temple gates and samadhis which would fall into the road widening area.
Gaudiya missions, which had their temples established on Bhaktisiddhanta road (some before Iskcon acquired a property there), were taken by surprise with this plan and quickly filed a request to stop this court order.
All missions had previously signed a request for road-fixing, a request which was formulated by the Sarasvat Gaudiya Vaishnava Association, managed by the secretaries of Iskcon Mayapur, without consulting the other Saraswat Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Mission leaders were very sad to find out about this and requested the government to study the situation closely.
What came to light was quite surprising: According to Indian law an institution can only acquire up to 300 acres of land (FEMA?). In order to bypass this law Iskcon registered properties in the name of 20 different trusts, so that they would be able to realize their master plan. Besides wanting to build a very big temple, they want to construct a new road and bridge over the Jalangi-river. Thus by creating a new entrance into Mayapur the dham would be rearranged in such a way that Iskcon would be in the center, the first temple visible & visited. The other Gaudiya missions on Bhaktisiddhanta road would fade away somewhere in the background. A new entrance to Mayapur over the Jalangi-river, going through the middle of Iskcon land would effect the entire set up of Mayapur.
This plan was hidden from other Gaudiya missions. Maybe a private master plan of a mission does not have to be made public, but in the event that it effects the strategic position of other temples it must be shared and discussed. The case of Mayapur is of such nature. Also Iskcon's land purchasing crusades have already driven the land prices into the sky....." http://www.bvml.org/CE/holydhama2007.html
 
Why has Iskcon's land purchasing crusades driven the land prices into the sky ?  Well, it appears they have prices covered by a "Bengali Brotherhood" :
 
"The news are that ISKCON Mayapur wants more vaisnavas to go and live there, but when we approach the Holy Dham is an open secret to all that "be careful, only buy land (at high cost) from iskcon land dep. because if u do go buy from some out side local people that they sell much cheaper than iskcon, then u put your self in big danger to have the bengali iskcon "brothers" at your door husel you and threatening you and bringing you to the point that you finally do go away very frustrated with the whole iskcon lack of brotherhood and lack of practical love and trust."
In conclusion it must be asked, did the CPI (M) Government of Bengal turn a blind eye to American cult's activities and breaches of FERA laws?  Did they also fall foul to ISKCON propaganda promising a shower of revenue in foreign exchange?  Promises of free food, hospitals and schools for locals, and recognition internationally as a world tourist attraction?  An exaggerated heaven on earth based on the cult's international status?  Will the Trinamool Congress Government under our pious and truthful Chief Minister, Shrimati Mamta Banerjee, see the wealth of foodlands squashed under edifices of dictatorial cult ego; ergo take a closer look at the sect's activities re. FEMA;  its breaches triggered by a ravenous need to accumulate and expand? 
 
In the beginning through the interim and unto the end, foreign investment in Bengal's agricultural land/farm house/plantation property was initiated by a disillusioned cult dictator and controller running on a personal agenda: 
 
Prabhupada: "If you do something wonderful at Mayapur that will be my credit and I can truly be called the guru of Americans.  But if you do not do anything there, then that will be a great discredit for me and I will not defeat my Godbrothers as I desire".
 
Thank You for spending time with us
 
BIF
 
What is "FERA" ?
Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA)-1947, was amended by the Indira Gandhi Government to regulate certain payments dealing in foreign exchange, securities, the import & export of currency and acquisition of immovable property by foreigners (FERA -1973.) Under Section 31 (1) of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) of 1973, It is mandatory for foreign corporations, which are not incorporated in India to obtain permission from the Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) to acquire, hold, transfer or dispose off in any manner (expect by way of lease for a period not exceeding five years) any immovable property in India.

Clear title ?

A title that is free of liens or legal questions as to ownership of the property

Legal report ?

Varification of property doucments by an advocate

survey ?

A drawing or map showing the precise legal boundaries of a property, the location of improvements, easements, rights of way, encroachments, and other physical features

Can foreign citizens of Indian origin acquire commercial properties in India?

Yes. Under the general permission granted by Reserve Bank properties other than agricultural land/farm house/plantation property can be acquired by foreign citizens of Indian origin provided the purchase consideration is met either out of inward remittances in foreign exchange through normal banking channels or out of funds from the purchaser's NRE/FCNR accounts maintained with banks in India and a declaration is submitted to the Central Office of Reserve Bank in from IPI 7 within period of 90 days from the date of purchase of the property/final payment of purchase consideration

Do foreign citizens of Indian origin require permission of Reserve Bank to purchase immovable property in India for their residential use?

Yes. However, Reserve Bank has granted general permission to foreign citizens of Indian origin whether resident in India or abroad, to purchase immovable property in India for their bona fide residential purpose. They are therefore, not required to obtain separate permission of Reserve Bank.

Purchase of Immovable Property in India by Foreign Citizens of Non-Indian origin/Foreign Companies

Foreign citizens of Non-Indian origin (whether resident in India or not) and foreign companies including trusts, societies and associations incorporated/ registered abroad will be permitted by Reserve Bank, on application, to acquire immovable property in India, provided the following conditions are satisfied.

The property to be purchased is for residential use only.

The consideration for purchase of the property is met out of foreign exchange remitted from abroad in any convertible currency through normal banking channels

Income accruing by way of rent from the property purchased, or the sale proceeds of such property/income arising out of investment of such sale proceeds at any future date shall be credited only to the Ordinary Non-resident Rupee (NRO) account of the non-resident purchaser.

Applications for necessary permission for purchase of immovable property in India should be made in form IPI 1 together with the documents indicated therein to the Chief General Manager, Exchange Control Department, (Foreign Investment Division-III), Reserve Bank of India, Central Office, Mumbai 400 001.

What does repealed "FEMA" (1999) state re. purchase of immovable property and specifically agricultural lands

Introduction

Acquisition of immovable property in India by persons resident outside India (foreign national) is regulated in terms of section 6 (3) (i) of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 as well as by the regulations contained in the Notification No. FEMA 21/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000, as amended from time to time. Section 2 (v) and Section 2 (w) of FEMA, 1999 defines `person resident in India' and a `person resident outside India', respectively. Person resident outside India is categorized as Non- Resident Indian (NRI) or a foreign national of Indian Origin (PIO) or a foreign national of non-Indian origin. The Reserve Bank does not determine the residential status. Under FEMA, residential status is determined by operation of law. The onus is on an individual to prove his / her residential status, if questioned by any authority.s

A person resident in India who is not a citizen of India is also covered by the relevant Notifications.  

2.   In terms of the provisions of Section 6(5) of FEMA 1999, a person resident outside India can hold, own, transfer or invest in Indian currency, security or any immovable property situated in India if such currency, security or property was acquired, held or owned by such person when he was a resident in India or inherited from a person who was a resident in India.

3.   The regulations under Notification No. FEMA 21/2000-RB dated May 3, 2000, as amended from time to time, permit a NRI or a PIO to acquire immovable property in India, other than agricultural land or, plantation property or farm house. Further, foreign companies who have been permitted to open a Branch or Project Office in India are also allowed to acquire any immovable property in India, which is necessary for or incidental to carrying on such activity. Such dispensation is however not available to entities which are permitted to open liaison offices in India.

4.    The restrictions on acquiring immovable property in India by a person resident outside India would not apply where the immovable property is proposed to be acquired by way of a lease for a period not exceeding 5 years or where a person is deemed to be resident in India.

In order to be deemed to be a person resident in India, from FEMA angle, the person would need to comply with the provisions of Section 2(v) of FEMA 1999. 

A.   Acquisition of Immovable Property in India through
purchase / gift/ inheritance

Q.1.  Who can purchase immovable property in India?

Ans. Under the general permission available, the following categories can purchase immovable property in India:

i) Non-Resident Indian (NRI)
ii)  Person of Indian Origin (PIO)
 
The general permission, however, covers only purchase of residential and commercial property and is not available for purchase of agricultural land / plantation property / farm house in India.

Q.2.  Can NRI/PIO acquire agricultural land/ plantation property / farm house in India?

Ans. No.

Q.6. Can a foreign national of non-Indian origin resident outside India purchase immovable property in India?

Ans. No. A foreign national of non-Indian origin, resident outside India cannot purchase any immovable property in India unless such property is acquired by way of inheritance from a person who was resident in India. However, he / she can acquire or transfer immovable property in India, on lease, not exceeding five years. In such cases, there is no requirement of taking any permission of /or reporting to the Reserve Bank. ....(end)...