In the recent month, the unearthing of multi-crore Land Scam in Deoghar and subsequent slow-moving acts of the Jharkhand Government and its departments; all these unconsciously reminded us of Land Scam in Ranchi which came into light in 1995 and since then it has only dragged its feet without really reaching anywhere.
In the Ranchi Land Scam case the FIR lodged by the Jharkhand Vigilance Bureau alleged that some Bureaucrats and Land Mafia elements in criminal connivance sold more than 200 acres of Tribal (Adivasi) and Government Lands. It is alleged that more than 200 acres of prime land in Ranchi, their value estimated in excess of Rupees 400 crores, these lands were illegally transferred to private housing co-operative societies and individuals. These land-transfers were done in the gross violation of the existing Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT Act) in Ranchi. Yet in 2011, the investigation into Ranchi Land Scam has failed to reach its logical conclusion and consequently the accused roam around freely.
The recent newspapers’ reports have suggested that in Dumka, more than half-dozen government ponds have been illegally sold by Land-Mafia to the private parties. According to the news-papers, many ponds situated near the bus-stand, Dumka-Bhagalpur Road, Dumka-Masalia Road, Dudhani, Singhara Pokhra and Dhobiya Pokhra at Bandhpura have no existence now. In their place private homes have come up. Again this is a gross violation of Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act (SPT Act) in Dumka.
On this issue, Stephen Marandi, former dy. C.M. said, “The land-mafia in connivance with the Political leaders has sold most of the government ponds in Dumka.”
Now, let us go back to Deoghar Land Scam, few months ago the lid on the uncovered by Deoghar Deputy Commissioner (D.C.) Mast Ram Meena. His office was virtually flooded with many complaints filed by victims of the land scam in the district, who asserted that their non-transferable lands (because of SPT Acts) were mysteriously no longer registered in their names. Then, D.C. ordered a probe into the matter. During the course of the probe, the D.C. found that very large chunk of both the private lands and the government lands in Deoghar were illegally grabbed by the Land-Mafia. The land-scam has taken place in half a dozen blocks of the Districts, the worst hit are Deoghar, Manoharpur and Madhupur Blocks. Alarmed by the magnitude of large-scale land-bungling, it has been reported that in July 2011 D.C. requested the Chief Secretary for a high-level probe into the matter.
So far, it has come to light that more than 800 acres of non-transferable private and government lands worth in excess of Rupees 1000 crores were sold or transferred illegally. This has been going on for the last three years, by forging the original land records, the land-mafia has managed to grab these basauri (household category) plot in Deoghar. No doubt, in this land-scam plan, the land-mafia was actively assisted by the government employees posted at these land-records, land-registrations offices located at these Blocks and the District Headquarters.
The modus-operandi of the land-mafia in this land scam was devious.
- Firstly, they prepared forged land documents to change the status of the non-transferable land to the acquired and transferable land.
- Secondly, they replaced the original land documents lying in District Record Room with the forged land documents.
- Thirdly, they changed the name of the land-owners in the Register 2.
- Fourthly, they got these false owners their bogus land receipts, some even dating back to 30 to 40 years.
- Lastly, after the completion of all the necessary phony land-document, these private and government lands were sold to the buyers.
While the slow-moving Jharkhand Government was taking its own sweet time to react to D.C. M.R. Meena’s request; the highly active Land-Mafia was not going to take things lying down. On the night of 30th August, the criminals suspected to be associated with the land-mafia broke into the Deoghar District Record Room and escaped with the original land-documents. These thieves broke-open the sealed iron box in which the land deeds were kept and then they took-off with the land-deeds.
The theft-incident happened despite D.C.’s orders for heavy security deployment to guard these land-record rooms. Another interesting fact is that theft took place when D.C. was away from District on a training-programme. Some of the district officials, who wanted to remain anonymous, they admitted that the land-mafia enjoys political patronage and the theft of the original land-deeds might hamper the ongoing investigation into the land scam as the District Administration do not have original land-deeds. Rather amusingly, the police investigation on the theft found that although the theft was committed in the Record-room, none of the four locks on the main entrance that leads to the record room were damaged. This daring theft also points out that some of the dishonest and corrupt elements in the Deoghar District Administration have complicity with the Land-Mafia and their nexus led to land-scam.
The District Administration lodged F.I.R. on 1st September 2011; the F.I.R. said that the land-deeds relating to over 771 acres of land, alleged to have been fraudulently sold by the Land-mafia, these relevant land-documents have been missing from the land-record-rooms. The District police also managed to arrest Dhurv Parihat (a land dealer) and Sunil Kumar Poddar (son of a peon Jyotirindra Poddar, who is posted in district land department). Also on the orders of the Deoghar D.C. head clerk Amal Badai and clerk Niranjan Kumar Rai, both of district records room were suspended for the theft of land-deeds. But these people are small fishes, the big fishes of the dirty pond still eludes the net.
On 5th September, 2011 the Revenue and Land Reforms Department recommended vigilance probe into the land-scam. One of the unnamed government official told journalists, “The Land-Mafia elements prepared computerized land acquisition documents dating back to 1940s, when computers did not exist.”
By weekend, it became clear that the ballpark figure of Rupees 1000 crore Deoghar Land-Scam might shoot up. The initial inquiries have indicated that in last decade or so, the number of sale and purchase transaction of land in Deoghar is on very high side. This is despite the fact that overwhelming high percentage of the lands in Deoghar belongs to non-saleable category under SPT Acts. And under SPT Act, the sale of Tribal (Adivasi) land to non-tribal is strictly prohibited and considered illegal.
Taking no further chances, on 8th September 2011, C.M. Arjun Munda led Jharkhand Government did well to recommend C.B.I. investigations into the scam. As the Central Government’s official notification in this regard by the takes time, Jharkhand Government also directed State Vigilance Department to begin their investigation into the matter, until the C.B.I. formally starts the investigation. In addition, the vigilance probe was ordered to ensure that no destruction of evidences take place in the interim-period.
In mid September, State Vigilance Department commenced their investigation, briefing the media about the ongoing probe, M.V. Rao, I.G. (Vigilance) told, “Our preliminary investigations have come up with a plethora of evidences, which suggest that land records have been fudged in a large-scale, to illegally dispose thousand acres of land.”
Commenting on Deoghar Land Scam, Dumka CPM leader Ramchandra Majhi said, “The revelation isn’t surprising. Tribal land is being grabbed for 150 years in connivance with corrupt officials. It is high time that the functioning of Record-rooms and Settlement-offices in Santhal Pargana are brought under scanner to expose illegal transfer of land.”
Similar sentiments were heard even in the Chota Nagpur Plateau and Kolhan regions. In many cities of Jharkhand, including capital city Ranchi, such kind of land scams is a harsh reality.
But Jharkhand Government chooses to remain a mute bystanders while such land grabbing cases continues unabated, in different cities, throughout the state. Will Jharkhand Government wake up and act?
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