Friday, December 28, 2007

Going after encroachers of prime land

Going after encroachers of prime land

T.S. Ranganna

The Ramaswamy panel exposed the nexus in the loot of government land

— Photo: K. Gopinathan

STARTLING REVELATIONS: A.T. Ramaswamy and members of the legislative committee during investigation at an encroached land in Bangalore in this May 2007 photo.

Bangalore: The high point in Karnataka politics last year was the findings of the Joint Legislature Committee that probed government land encroachments in Bangalore Urban district.

The committee was headed by the former Janata Dal (S) MLA, A.T. Ramaswamy.

It exposed so fully, for the first time, the connivance of the officers in the departments of Revenue, Muzrai, Forests, Minor Irrigation, Health, Animal Husbandry and Transport, besides those in the Bangalore Development Authority, the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, the Karnataka Housing Board, the Wakf Board, Bangalore University, the Karnataka State Slum Clearance Board, various house building cooperative societies and city municipal councils.

The committee presented three reports to Speaker Krishna, including one after the Legislative Assembly was dissolved, which attracted criticism from the Congress. The party took objection to submitting the report saying that the committee had no locus standi once the Assembly was dissolved.

The committee members, who routinely inspected the areas several times, made startling revelations, sending shock waves among politicians, industrialists, builders, film personalities and heads of religious institutions.

It also led to a continuous debate among the public and elsewhere.

The panel detected land grabbing by 46,000 offenders. The area of grabbed land was estimated at 45,000 acres and its worth over Rs. 50,000 crore.

Since the committee has been wound up with the dissolution of the Assembly, Mr. Ramaswamy and other members met Governor Rameshwar Thakur on Thursday and urged him to take steps to stop the loot of land and natural resources through encroachments and mining.

They brought to the Governor’s notice that the Karnataka Prevention of Land Grabbing Act, 2007, was awaiting the President’s assent for the last eight months. The law provides for special courts to try land grabbing cases.

Speaking to presspersons here, Mr. Ramaswamy said the Governor had responded positively and promised to hold further discussions.

In the list of departments from which land has been encroached, the Revenue Department stands at the top with 33,877 acres.

Among those that have lost lands are: Department of Forests (2,223.33 acres); Bangalore Development Authority (2,878); lakes/tanks/water bodies (1,848); wakf board (263.18); Animal Husbandry Department (53.26); Muzrai Department (61); Slum Clearance Board (12.19); BBMP (13.09); Bangalore University (13.19); Karnataka Housing Board (34); Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (10.25); Department of Agriculture (3.19); and NIMHANS (3.26 acres).

Individual reports on each department have been submitted to the Speaker.

Mr. Ramaswamy also pointed out that the actual extent of land grabbing was more than what had been detected.

“This is also because of mischief and corruption at all levels by public servants in creating and abetting bogus records on the basis of which government lands are grabbed fearlessly by builders and others,” Mr. Ramaswamy said in his letter to the Governor.

He also expressed apprehension that “the corruption that has consumed the system” made him “doubtful whether this alarming situation can be remedied at all”.

Of the encroachment detected, only a little over 8,000 acres of land has been recovered by the Revenue Department, according to Mr. Ramaswamy.


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