BHUBANESWAR: The land grab at Ghangapatna, on the outskirts of the city, may not be an isolated case. The state government has started preliminary inquiry into suspected encroachment on government plots at nearby Malipada and Gothapatna villages.
Official sources said in methods strikingly similar to the illegalities at Ghangapatna, fraudulent transaction of land by diverting leased agricultural land for homestead purpose is suspected in these villages of Paikarapur panchayat under Chandaka police limits. The revenue department has started verification of records, following a complaint by some residents, who mentioned specific 'khata' (book of records) and plot numbers.
The government has detected grabbing of 76 acre at Gothapatna. The Crime Branch has arrested seven persons, including four government employees, in this connection.
On August 27, villagers lodged a complaint with the revenue department and alleged that authorities of Bhubaneswar tehsil exceeded their jurisdiction in granting lease of land. They gave the lease to outsiders by ignoring deserving landless persons. The leaseholders then converted the land type from agricultural to non-agricultural in collusion with revenue officials and sold it to developers at much higher prices.
The villagers said three developers encroached on government land, grazing grounds and communal land, totaling to more than 50 acre, and built apartments without the approval of Bhubaneswar Development Authority.
The developers allegedly felled cashew plantation in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Just like Ghangapatna, influential persons constructed a road to their 'grabbed' land at Gothapatna too, the villagers alleged. A particular plot was allegedly leased to kin of tehsil officials and later sold to a third party, they added.
A government officer said it is a peculiar situation in many other villages, where leased land subsequently changed multiple hands. Though criminal liability can be fixed on leaseholders and those who bought the land from them directly, subsequent buyers may get 'benefit of doubt' as by then the revenue department records had changed. "The records were manipulated, but the buyers had no means to find out that these were compromised," the officer said.