Sunday, November 28, 2004

Land sharks target 600 acres of govt. land

Loophole In Repealed Urban Land Act; Officials Helpless
Times of India

Bangalore: A fresh land-grabbing scam around Bangalore, worth over Rs 300 crore, has come to light.

A loophole in a central law — the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Repeal Act (1999) — has ensured this scam functions with impunity. State government employees express helplessness, though an estimated 600 acres, worth about Rs 50 lakh an acre, is up for grabs.

The repealed Act states that if the government has not taken physical possession of land “vested’’ with it under the original Urban Land Ceiling Act (1976), the land reverts to the owner. This has turned out to be a godsend for the grabbers.

The scam operates as follows:
Step I: grabbers identify ‘vested’ land.
Step II: They get documents stating this land was ‘sold’ to them.
Step III: They put up a structure there and claim physical possession.
Step IV: They demand it ‘reverts’ to the owner, that is themselves, as per provisions of the repealed Act.

Land value has shot up over 500 per cent around most of Bangalore in the last eight years. So, the scam result is: grabbers get government land for a pittance, carve it up into six-seven sites per acre and make a killing.
A top official told the Sunday Times of India that they were helpless to stop this, as the problem was procedural: “In revenue records, these lands — about 600 acres around Bangalore — belong to the government. But the grabbers, in cahoots with lower-level officials, prove the land is in their physical possession, not the government’s. We have no choice but to hand it over.’’

A judgment awarded by the Bangalore DC in June on a case in Bangalore South taluk blew the lid off the scam. The land in question as per revenue records belongs to the government, but the DC’s order says: “After spot investigation by the DC, it is stated that a godown exists on the land. It is found that the purchaser has taken physical possession, so as per the Repeal Act, the land reverts to him.’’

Consequent to this, the Bangalore DC’s office has been flooded with similar petitions. But the office does not even have figures on how much land was vested with the government under the original Act!
Bangalore DC M.A. Sadiq, who took charge a month ago, said: “We have no consolidated figures. We will begin computerisation now and try to take preventive action on this scam.’’


* The Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act (1976) was passed by the Centre and state legislatures with this objective: “A view to preventing concentration of urban land in the hands of a few persons and speculation and profiteering therein, and with a view to bringing about an equitable distribution of land in urban agglomerations to subserve the common good.’’

* The Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Repeal Act (1999) Section 3 (a) says: “Any land deemed to have vested in the State Government under the principal Act, but possession of which has not been taken over by the state government or any person duly authorised by the state government in this behalf or by the competent authority’’ will revert to the owner.


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