Friday, September 29, 2006

Land sharks grab forest, but Bhoomi tracks illegal deals

Land sharks grab forest, but Bhoomi tracks illegal deals
The Times of India

Bangalore: The sprawling Turahalli minor forest in Bangalore rural which is in news for encroachments, has a primary school, a house, agriculture patches and a layout. A major chunk of the forest might have been just lost to the land sharks but for the Bhoomi project which could track the illegal land sale transactions.
Of the 597.19 acres of the forest, 343 acres, 38 guntas were “sold’’ by four city realtors by forging the documents. The Times of India is in possession of the inspection reports of the forest department which has identified various kinds of encroachments.
Tipped off by an NGO, the department discovered that a huge chunk of the forest had been ‘sold’ to Hyderabad developer Rajendra by realtors B Chandrashekar, V Mohan Kumar, Narasimhamurthy and A T Krishnamaurthy. The four had forged land records and mutation, which had been granted to the forest department on Aug 24, 1934, and ‘sold’ 343 acres, 38 guntas of shrub jungle in survey number 5 of Uttarahalli Manavarthe Kaval. Subsequently, a Forest Offence Case was filed at the Talgatpura police station.
“We’ve identified the encroachers and booked a case against them. Rest assured the sale is only on paper. We are physically in control of the entire stretch of forest,’’ district forest officer A M Annaiah told TOI.
This incident was just the tip of the iceberg. Large-scale encroachments came to light during an inspection on August 14 but the transactions were only on paper, thanks to Bhoomi (land record computerisation) project which identified the bungling.
For instance: Sale agreement for 39 acres of land was recently executed at Kengeri sub-registrar’s office. When the documents were submitted to the tahsildar for khata transfer, the scam came to light. Bhoomi showed the land records as “forest area’’ and the khata was rejected. Subsequently, the revenue department has asked district registrar to initiate action against the sub-registrar.
The inspection revealed that on survey number 42 in the east of the forest, trees were felled and land was levelled for agriculture; there was an attempt to dig a tube well. Three villagers — Shankarappa, Suresh and Byrappa — had encroached upon 16.32 acres in Gubalu village, Uttarahalli hobli, and a case has been registered.
In survey No. 41 of Kariyanapalya, a social service organisation has constructed a building housing a government primary school. What next? The forest department plans to convert the area into an eco-tourism, birdwatching and adventure sport venue.
Four persons had forged records and “sold” the forest land.
The forest dept discovered the crime after an NGO tipped it off.
The department now says it is in full “physical” control of the land.


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