Monday, January 31, 2005

Land owners at mafia mercy

Land owners at mafia mercy

As the real estate prices have shot up of late, the land mafia is out to make mega bucks and is striking with impunity.

Deccan Herald

Do you have a vacant site in Bangalore? If yes, then watch your back. For, you might soon be haunted by the land mafia.

Once a covert activity of the netherworld, the operations of Bangalore’s land mafia have apparently become a part of our culture now. Instances of site-owners being threatened, extorted, kidnapped and assaulted by the land sharks are on the rise. With the real estate prices having shot up by 200 per cent in the last 18 months, the land mafia has decided to make a fast buck and started striking with impunity. At least, half-a-dozen persons have been murdered in property-related disputes in the City in recent times.

The modus operandi of the land sharks is simple and straight: they identify vacant sites in localities where the real estate prices are high, forge documents and stake claim over the site by constructing a shed with hollow cement bricks. They normally bribe Bescom officials and get a power connection for the shed. When the shocked site-owners question them by showing original documents, they unleash terror.

The hatchet job is done by hired men, who usually get Rs 100 in cash, a biryani packet and two bottles of liquor (whisky or rum) per day. In the face of so much pressure, the original owner has to either sell his site for a meagre price or pay ‘protection’ money to retain it.

This is precisely what is happening in the serene Brindavan Layout near R T Nagar these days. As the land price in the area shot up from Rs 750 per sft (square foot) to Rs 1,500 per sft in the last six months, peace lies shattered.

An office-bearer of the Brindavan Layout Residents’ Association said: “Of the 20 vacant sites in the area, five have already been taken over by the land-grabbers. The sites are of different dimensions — from 30’x40’ to 100’x80’. We live under constant fear as goondas keep moving around in the area all the time.”

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Mr C Venkatesh, who owns a site in the area, said: “I had bought the site in 1980 thinking that it will come in handy during my daughter’s wedding. I have all the original papers and tax receipts. But now some persons are staking claim to it.”

Though a complaint has been lodged with the police, the land sharks continue to have a free run, he said. The two land-mafia gangs that operate in the area reportedly enjoy political connections.

Physical threats
Threats from the land mafia are not just verbal, but also physical. Recently, a man was kidnapped by a gang when he staked claim to a site in Yelahanka’s Balaji Krupa Layout. When passers-by tried to stop the kidnappers, they fired three rounds in the air to scare them away. The man was badly assaulted and later released.

The worst thing happened in Ulsoor’s Jogupalya: an elderly citizen was murdered right in front of his residence when he challenged the land mafia that tried to grab his land, worth crores of rupees.

Things have come to such a pass that a majority of the people in the queue at the Bangalore City Police Commissioner’s office are those who are fighting to save their sites.

Senior police officers said complaints of this kind were mainly reported from the revenue pockets in Madivala, HAL, Subramanyapura, Kengeri, Yelahanka, Banaswadi, Ramamurthy Nagar and K R Puram police limits.

As the underworld of this uncontrolled economy pays well, police officers too have started donning the role of negotiators.

“When a person comes up with a complaint stating that he has been dispossessed of his site by some unknown person, policemen ideally should investigate as to who has forged the documents.

“Instead, they settle disputes in the station itself and get commission from both the parties,” a senior police officer said.

*Ensure that you have all the relevant documents establishing your right over the site.
*Obtain a khata and pay the property tax. Keep the tax receipts.
* Take possession of the site by constructing a compound. If possible, put up a shed.
* Put up a name board and take photographs of the property.


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