Tuesday, January 31, 2012

News Article: 12,326 acres defence land under encroachment: Antony


Posted: Tuesday, Aug 02, 2011 at 1626 hrs IST
Tags: Land Encroachment | A K Antony | Short Service Commission

New Delhi: Over 12,000 acre of defence land across the country is under encroachment.

"A total of 12,326 acres of defence land is under encroachment...862 cases pertaining to encroachment are pending in different courts," Defence Minister A K Antony said yesterday in reply to a Lok Sabha query.

With more than 17 lakh acres land under them, the Defence forces are one of the largest owners of land in the country.

As per the state-wise data, 3,080 acres land is under encroachment in Uttar Pradesh followed by 1,491 acres in Madhya Pradesh.

The Defence Minister said the Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE) has initiated a programme for computerisation of defence land registration.

"Two projects -- one on digitisation of land records involving scanning, indexing and the other on the survey of land -- have been sanctioned recently to be completed in a time bound manner," he said.

In reply to another query, the Defence Ministry said it was considering a proposal to bring Short Service Commission (SSC) officers under ex-servicemen contributory health scheme to attract more youths to join the forces....

© 2012: The Indian Express Limited. All rights reserved throughout the world

Monday, January 30, 2012

News Article: Orissa HC directs CBI to probe Cuttack land scam

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 22:39

Cuttack: Not satisfied with the action taken report of the Cuttack district administration over the alleged land scam in Cuttack city, Orissa High Court on Wednesday handed over the case to CBI to probe into the allegations.

Asking the CBI to probe into the alleged encroachment of a canal in the city by land mafias, the Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice B P Das and Justice M M Das also asked the CBI to probe into any other allegations of encroachment of government land in the city.

"It is open for the CBI to investigate into the entire allegations of encroachment of government land by land mafias," the HC said asking the agency to take appropriate action against all the persons involved in the scam.

Members of the Bar had earlier alleged that prime government land measuring nearly 400 acres in Abhinav Bidanasi of the city are grabbed by the mafias with the help of local revenue officials. The High Court expressing concern of the fact had directed the district collector to conduct a probe and submit a report.

Although, the district administration conducted enquiries and submitted a report, the High Court did not approve the exercise and ordered to hand over the case to CBI. Accordingly, the Cuttack Sadar sub-collector has been asked to act as a nodal officer to assist the central agency.

The members of the bar had brought to the notice of the High Court that land mafias in connivance with local revenue staff help unsuspecting buyers to encroach upon government lands. Subsequently, they helped the buyers to construct houses on the same plot and insist them to file Encroachment cases under Orissa Prevention of Land Encroachment Act.


© 1998-2012 Zee News Limited, All rights reserved

Friday, January 27, 2012

News Article: Fencing of 18 City lakes begins

P M Raghunandan, Bangalore, January 23 2012, DHNS:

Boost to protection of green belt around Bangalore

In a big boost to the protection of green belt around Bangalore, the State Minor Irrigation Department has taken up a project to rejuvenate and fence 18 tanks located within the green belt limits, after clearing encroachments.

The department has already completed survey of these tanks and identified their original boundaries. Steps are being taken to remove encroachments on 13 tanks in coordination with the Revenue Department.

Besides, rejuvenation work has been taken up in eight tanks, which are in bad shape, Minor Irrigation Secretary P N Srinivasachary said.

There will be only one entry and exit point at these tanks. A separate enclosure will be provided for cattle grazing and for local community use.

Once fenced, the tanks will be completely safe from encroachments and they will be maintained properly. The entire project is estimated to cost nearly Rs 10 crore, and the contract has already been awarded to take up fencing of many of these tanks. The work is expected to be completed in about six months, he added.

Long-term benefit

The project to restore these water bodies will go a long way in protecting the green belt (place where construction activities are banned) which has been shrinking rapidly.

As per the 1995-2005 Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) of Bangalore prepared by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), the green belt was spread across 732 sq km (one sq km is equal to 247 acres) around Bangalore, while conurbation area (a predominantly urban region including adjacent towns and suburbs) was 508 sq km. The total local planning area of the BDA is 1,240 sq km.

But the green belt shrunk to 455 sq km, while the conurbation area ballooned to 785 sq km in the 2005-2015 CDP of the BDA.

In other words, about 277 sq km of land coming under the green belt limits was opened for construction activities or urbanisation. The green belt, as a result, became smaller than the conurbation area.

Removal of encroachment

With respect to five of these tanks, encroachments were found to be widespread. For instance, about 77.1 acres of a total 108.8 acres of Vaderhalli kere in Bangalore South taluk was under encroachment.

The Tahasildar had given permission to some people to take up cultivation in 1942. Similarly, about 4.64 hectares of Maragondanahalli kere have been encroached upon. Tahasildars of all five taluks of Bangalore urban districts have been directed to clear encroachments at the earliest, officials said.

The department has, however, dropped its plan to fence all its tanks in other districts as they are extensively used by the local community.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

News Article: Reclaim encroached land - Khatri

Madikeri, January 24 2012, DHNS:

49 cases of encroachment in Madikeri alone

District-in-Charge Secretary Rajkumar Khathri directed the district administration to take measures to reclaim the encroached government land.

Speaking at the review meeting here on Tuesday, he said no one is above the law of the land. The law is equal to all. Using the provisions within the framework of the law, the authorities should reclaim the land. After holding discussion with the elected representatives, action should be initiated against the encroachers.

Assistant Commissioner Dr M R Ravi, who is also the anti-encroachment task force chairman, said three task forces have been constituted to reclaim the encroached government land in the district. In Madikeri as many as 49 cases of encroachments have been identified. In Somwarpet it is 35 cases and Virajpet it is 15 cases. Notices have been issued to the encroachers. Criminal cases have been filed against those who fail to hand over the encroached land. Five cases have been filed in Madikeri, eight in Somwarpet and seven in Virajpet.

MLA M P Appacchu Ranjan said that encroached land should be reclaimed in towns. MLC M C Nanaiah said that about 1,000 acre government land has been encroached in Madikeri.

Unfortunately, no action has been initiated against the encroachers. There is a need to preserve the hillocks and environment in the region.

He said that though proposal of Rs 36 crore was sent to the government to take up calamity relief work, the government has released only Rs two crore.

Kodagu receives heavy rainfall. All the roads get damaged due to rain. To repair the roads, one should release at least Rs ten crore annually, he added. Reacting to this, District-in-Charge Secretary said that he will direct the officials to release additional funds.

Committee for basics

MLC M C Nanaiah said that a committee constituted to supply nutritious food and basic facilities to Jenu Kuruba community do not have representative from the community.
He said the committee under the guidance of DC includes ITDP office, officials from food and civil supplies and politicians.

Deputy Commissioner Dr N V Prasad, SP Manjunath Annigeri, Additional DC K M Chandre Gowda

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

News Article: Patwari, Kanoongo sacked over land fraud

TNN Jan 20, 2012, 02.37AM IST

GURGAON: The Gurgaon deputy commissioner, P C Meena, has dismissed a patwari and ordered compulsory retirement of a field kanoongo involved in changing ownership of about 128 acres of panchayati land in Museedpur village into 'Shamlat Deh' (common land).

The field kanoongo has been identified as Jaswant Singh while the patwari is one Purushottam. Museedpur village falls under the Farukhnagar Tehsil in the district. Following an inquiry, the zonal administrator of Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board (HSAMB) held both the patwari and the field kanoongo guilty of wrong transfer of a huge chunk of panchayati land which stands undivided.

The report submitted to Meena clearly states that after recommending change in ownership of the panchayat land, Singh and Purushottam came to know that the matter has come to the notice of higher authorities. To avoid getting caught, they did over-writings in the mutation number 641 of the village panchayat.

The inquiry officer held both the revenue officials guilty of acting in the most careless and reckless manner. Both these officials were chargesheeted under Rule 7 of the Haryana Citizen Services (Punishment & Appeals) Rules 1987 and suspended on February 17, 2006, after show-cause notices were issued to them.

They were asked to reply and were given the opportunity of a personal hearing but no satisfactory reply was received from them. They were again given another opportunity of hearing on January 17 this year but the again failed to convince the DC.

The dismissed patwari was posted as Patwari Surplus in Gurgaon while Singh was posted as Naib Sadar Kanoongo in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Mewat.

© 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved


Two revenue officials axed for land fraud

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Gurgaon, January 22, 2012

The Gurgaon deputy commissioner, PC Meena, has dismissed a patwari from service and ordered compulsory retirement of a field kanungo, who were allegedly involved in changing ownership of about 128 acres of panchayat land into ‘Shamlat Deh’ (common land) in Museedpur village. Field
kanungo Jaswant Singh and patwari Purushottam Kumar allegedly recommended the change of ownership in 2006.

Following an inquiry, the zonal administrator of Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board (HSAMB) held both the patwari and the field kanungo guilty of “wrongfully transferring the huge chunk of panchayat land.”

He held both the revenue officials guilty of acting in “utmost careless and reckless manner.”

Both the officials were charge-sheeted under Rule 7 of the Haryana Citizen Services (Punishment and Appeals) Rules 1987. They were suspended on February 17, 2006.

The officials were asked to reply and also given opportunities to appear for hearing, but no satisfactory reply was received from them. They were again asked to appear for a personal hearing on January 17.

Copyright © 2012 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 23, 2012

News Article: Legal hassle holds up anti-land grab drive

Dhananjay Jha, Hindustan Times
Gurgaon, January 20, 2012

The row over relocation of marble traders in Sikanderpur Market has been getting murkier. Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda) had launched a drive to reclaim the land allegedly encroached upon by the marble traders but it ran into rough weather after the affected shop owners moved

Huda had partially sealed 48 shops out of 52 in the market last week. But all these shops continue to function.

In 2004, in a bid to shift the marble market from Sikanderpur, Huda had allotted plots to marble traders in Sector 33-34. But the traders did shift to the new location, saying laws were violated in the allotment process.

In a survey, Huda found that many traders who were allotted plots in Sector 33-34 were carrying on with their trade in Sikanderpur as well.

According to the traders, the Huda allotted plots to undeserving candidates. “We want plot allotment be done in a fair manner. Unfortunately it did not happen in 2004 as plots were distributed to speculators,” said Sant Ram Goel.

The traders approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking fresh allotment and demarcation of plots.

The land was leased out to Sikanderpur Market by the erstwhile village panchayat in 1999 for five years. But later, this area came under Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG). Now, MCG is the rightful owner of the land and, as per municipal laws, this land cannot be used for commercial activities as the lease pact came to an end in 2004. “Now, the corporation wants its land back,” said a senior MCG official who does not want to be quoted.

The MCG official said many marble traders violated the terms and conditions of the lease agreement and sub-leased the allotted plots.

“Many unauthorised businesses are being run from there. Besides, the traders are encroaching upon more areas and their workers mostly put up in slums on grabbed land,” said the official.

Meanwhile, the process has started to auction the marble seized during the January 9-10 raid in Sikanderpur. The Huda gave shape to a committee to carry out the task. The panel includes MCG superintending engineer YK Garg as chairman, MCG executive engineer (enforcement) Raman Sharma as member secretary, MCG executive engineer Naresh Tomar and the Huda executive engineer of the area. The committee is learnt to have done the valuation of the marble. “On the basis of the reserved price, an auction will take place soon,” said a senior MCG official.

Copyright © 2012 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 20, 2012

News Article: Eviction drives to clear Silsako, Sarusola beels

TNN | Jan 20, 2012, 03.28AM IST

GUWAHATI: After years of encroachment, the Kamrup (Metro) district administration has started eviction drives in the Silsako and Sarusola waterbodies of the city.

DC (Kamrup Metro) Ashutosh Agnihotri said any kind of encroachment, development and construction in the protected areas of the two natural water bodies will not be tolerated. "Silsako and Sarusola are notified waterbodies and needs to be cleared. It is also necessary to clear the other wetlands of Guwahati to solve the problem of waterlogging," said Agnihotri.

An official of the district administration said that 40 houses constructed by encroaching the wetlands of Sarusola have been dismantled during the drive on Thursday and the district administration will next start digging the Sarusola Beel to make it a tourist spot.

"For better water management, it is important free the Sarusola Beel of encroachments. After clearing the protected areas in the periphery of Sarusala, construction of pavements along the banks of the waterbody will begin. We want to give Sarusala a different look. Like Dighalipukhuri, the beautification of the Sarusala water is our aim so that people get a new place to enjoy," he added. He said about eight and half bighas of land were freed of settlements during the eviction drive in the Sarusola Beel. The official stated the people were cooperating with the administration and there were no untoward incidents during the drive.

The Sarusola Beel alone has the potential bear drainage water from Paltan Bazar Manipuribasti, Fancy Bazar, Panbazar, Solapar, Ulubari, Gandhibasti and Chandmari areas of the city. Flashfloods cause inconvenience in these areas every year as the drains leading to the wetlands are blocked due to human settlements.

At the Silsako Beel, where the water retention capacity has been reduced by heavy sedimentation and construction in the nearby areas, 18 houses were razed by the district administration on Wednesday. The eviction drive continued on Thursday too.

Copyright © 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

News Article: Govt notice to 80 encroachers

Saturday, 10 December 2011 00:03
Staff Reporter | New Delhi

Delhi Government's Public Grievances Commission (PGC) has issued notices to over 80 properties that include residential and commercial properties of Mahipalpur in South Delhi to remove illegal constructions on a pond. The illegal constructions are reported to have been located at a water body on a DDA land.

The order came on a complaint of a local resident of Mahipalpur, who had approached the PGC to restoration of water body in the area. “Also, the entire work of periodic reporting on the work of restoration of water bodies has been entrusted to the chief secretary, hence it is essential to bring this matter to the notice of chief secretary, Delhi for restoration of the water body,” PGC chairman Ramesh Narayanaswami said in the order. The order further directed DCP (south) and DCP (south-west) to cooperate and assist Revenue Department to remove illegal structures here.

An official of Delhi Government said that notices have been issued to all 80 encroachers of the pond area. The notices were issued after door-to-door survey by the Revenue Department and Delhi police to this effect. Meanwhile, residents say that they are here for the past several years and there was no pond in the area as claimed by Government authorities.

Deputy Commissioner (south-west) DP Dwivedi and SDM Vasant Vihar, Rajpal Singh in its status report had said, the pond at Mahipalpur is spread over 27.03 bigha land but it has substantial encroachment in the form of shops, residential houses and kabadiwalas. The report states that DDA had requested for handing over the vacant physical possession of pond that was encroached by land mafia and locals of Mahipalpur village for development of the water body. The village Mahipalpur was urbanised in 1982 and the said land belongs to DDA. “No notices are required to be issued to the encroachers in reference to a recent order of Supreme Court which had directed that encroachment from gram sabha land should be removed,” the report said.

Special task force (STF) was constituted earlier to check encroachment on water body but nothing has happened. According to a survey, there are 900 water bodies in the Capital.

Copyright © 2011 The Pioneer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

News Article: HC tells govt to name officials who allotted land near Ramgarh dam

TNN Dec 21, 2011, 03.41AM IST

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to name those officials who made illegal allotments in the catchment area of Ramgarh dam and also the list of those influential persons who got the land in that area.

Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari asked the government to file the compliance report by January 31, 2012. The court also stayed all land allotments in the catchment areas of the dam, rivers, nullahs or any other water body in the state with immediate effect.

The bench took a serious note of the fact that more than 450 anicuts were constructed in the catchment area of Ramgarh dam and almost all of them are lying vacant and are obstructing the flow of water to the dam.

"We believe that public money cannot be allowed to be wasted and especially no anicut etc. shall be constructed henceforth without any survey being conducted about its requirement under NREGA or by any other government body. The money in NREGA is being wasted in constructing anicuts here and there without any survey regarding their viability," said Justice Bhandari.

Collector Naveen Mahajan tried to convince the court that most of the encroachments have been removed. He told the court that nearly 480 encroachments were previously identified but during the last three days of campaign, 34 more constructions have been spotted which are causing a hindrance to the flow.

Nearly 8,000 cases have been identified in the state where lands have been illegally allotted in the catchment area and for cancellation of the same, the reference has been made by the state government to the Board of Revenue, Ajmer.

Justice Bhandari, on the request of the monitoring committee, directed the state government to appoint a special panel of lawyers in the Board of Revenue so that the cases are seriously pursued.

"We fail to understand that more than 8,000 allotments have been made illegally as given out by the state government and still the government feels shy in highlighting the name of delinquent officers. We, therefore, direct the government to supply a list of officials who were involved in all the land allotments in Ramgarh dam at first instance by January 30, 2012 so that they may be taken to task," said Justice Bhandari in order.

The court has further directed the government to conduct a detailed survey of the rainfall ratio and the anicuts in Ramgarh dam area and to file a report as to the viability of more than 450 anicuts and water bodies in the course of flow towards Ramgarh dam.

© 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

News Article: Bengal's First Report Echoes Industry Fears

Pranesh Sarkar
Saturday, 14 January 2012 10:11

Calcutta: A preliminary report on the land bank, the magic pot that was supposed to offer the Mamata Banerjee government a palatable solution to the industry hurdle, has painted a grim picture. The report, sent to the chief minister earlier this week, has revealed that 90 per cent of the vested (government-owned) land in Bengal comprises scattered, small plots and nearly 50 per cent of plots are either encroached upon or under litigation.

Besides, 70 per cent of the large parcels are situated in districts facing infrastructure or law-and-order problems. The state has around 2.5 lakh acres of vested land, according to the report that was drawn up on the basis of data sent by district magistrates and 34 departments. The figure in itself may look sizable but the devil lurks in the details.

“The first comprehensive report on the land bank is not very encouraging for the state government. The size of 90 per cent of the plots falls below 100 acres. As big manufacturing industry requires bigger plots, these plots cannot be used to attract big industry,” said a senior state government official who has seen the report.

This report, however, is not the final one. Some departments like health and family welfare, housing, panchayat and rural development and animal resources development are yet to submit the status reports to the land and land reforms department, which will collate data and prepare the final report.

However, according to estimates given by senior officials in the land and land reforms department, the size of the land bank is not expected to go up by more than 50,000-75,000 acres once all the departments submit the details. “The quantum of land available will go up in the final report. But we don’t expect the size of the land parcels to be significantly different from what we have found in the preliminary report,” said the official. The state government has so far been trying to address industry’s overriding concern at the hands-off land policy by referring to the land bank as the cure.

According to the first report, only a “small” percentage of land — measuring between 100 and 700 acres — can accommodate industry. The number of such land parcels is put at not more than 150. Officials said that plots of this size could be used to set up industries like automobile units.

However, the location of these plots poses a problem. “Around 70 per cent of these land parcels are located in districts like West Midnapore, Bankura, Purulia while some of them are in Birbhum, Burdwan and in isolated islands of South 24-Parganas. It is tough to convince industrialists to go to these areas either because of law-and-order problems or lack of infrastructure,” an official said.

The preliminary report on the land bank has revealed that the state has very few land parcels measuring between 900 and 1,200 acres. For projects in power and steel, land should be in excess of 900 acres, said an official, pointing out that L&T had sought 1,200 acres to set up a 1,600MW power plant.

“We are finding it difficult to scout for contiguous land parcels to meet such demands…. We could only find three-four plots (for the L&T project), measuring between 500 acres and 700 acres, and all of them were located in West Midnapore,” the official said.

Mamata has said several times in the past few months that her government will encourage industry to explore investment opportunities in the districts. She has also promised to create infrastructure to facilitate industrialization in areas that are traditionally perceived as backward regions. However, the government has yet to come up with resource generation plans that can bankroll the creation of infrastructure.

“Industrialists expect the government to create infrastructure before going to the districts while the government is saying that they will create the infrastructure once industry decides to go to the districts. It is like a chicken-and-egg problem,” said a senior official in a city-based chamber.

The seven-month-old government has another difficult task at hand before placing the details of the land bank to potential investors.

“The government will have to remove encroachments and settle legal disputes. Removing encroachments is a politically sensitive issue while resolving legal tangles is a time-consuming process,” the official added.

CM lowers bar

Mamata on Friday sought to scale down the expectations from her. She explained that her oft-repeated pledge to transform Calcutta into London was “an idea” and cited land encumbrance as well as the funds crunch. “Small is beautiful… beauty is in the mind,” Mamata said in Digha.

- The Telegraph

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Monday, January 16, 2012

News Article: Water Bodies to be restored to their original capacity

CHENNAI, January 13, 2012

T. Ramakrishnan

It will be taken under rural employment guarantee scheme

The State Rural Development Department has planned to remove encroachment on scores of water bodies, falling under its jurisdiction, and restore the storage of the water bodies to their original capacity.

This work will be taken up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Totally, there are 70,368 water bodies, of which minor irrigation tanks account for 21,609 and ponds and ‘ooranies' – 48,759.

As a prelude to the execution of this work, the Department is preparing to bring out the corrected version of block-wise, village panchayat-wise maps, which will display the water bodies. [Till now, the block-wise maps indicate only the boundaries of revenue villages].

For digitisation of the corrected maps, the Department has taken the help of the Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS), Anna University. Its officials say that the digitisation will be completed by the middle of March. At that time, policy makers and administrators can have the maps for all 385 blocks and 12,524 village panchayats. Once digitised, one can draw out a map for a village panchayat from the map for a given block.

Asked about the number of encroached water bodies, the officials reply that an exhaustive study is underway, only after which will they be able to give an exact figure.

They prefer to describe the maps as corrected because details available in the satellite-based maps, supplied by the IRS to them earlier, were verified through field surveys. Many more details were subsequently added.

Using the corrected maps, the authorities can prepare a shelf of development projects for each village panchayat. Originally, the preparation of maps was planned to avoid random selection of water bodies. As the government is now permitting more than one worksite in a village panchayat, the maps will be helpful in finalising appropriate worksites in the panchayats.

They also say that no other State has carried out the preparation of such maps on such a scale. The Andhra Pradesh government has evinced interest in the project of Tamil Nadu.


This year, about Rs.1,970 crore was, so far, disbursed towards wages of beneficiaries. This was Rs.100 crore higher than what was given during the corresponding period of the previous financial year, the officials add. For 2011-2012, the allocation was Rs.3,472 crore.

Land development

Four districts have been chosen under the scheme to carry out land development activity on lands belonging to small and marginal farmers and Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.

The districts are Erode, Virudhunagar, Tiruchi and Thanjavur where beneficiaries of the scheme will be allowed to take up the activity on a pilot basis, according to an official of the Rural Development Department.

In the case of fallow lands, tilling, levelling and bund formation will be carried out. In respect of utilisable lands, pitting, tree plantation and the creation of percolation ponds and farm ponds will be allowed. The rationale behind the move is that the farmers cannot afford the cost of land development.

 Copyright © 2012, The Hindu  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

News Article: Karnataka: In no man's land


FRONTLINE, Volume 28 - Issue 16 : Jul. 30-Aug.12, 2011

Karnataka: The report of the Task Force on encroachment of government land is likely to suffer a silent death.

IT was clear to V. Balasubramanian, the Chairman of the Task Force for Recovery of Public Land and its Protection, when he submitted his report on encroachment of government land that it would ruffle quite a few feathers in the political and bureaucratic echelons of Karnataka. What he was unprepared for was the report's complete rejection by G. Karunakara Reddy, State Revenue Minister, on flimsy grounds.

The Task Force, set up by the State government in September 2009, submitted its report on July 4. Apart from Balasubramanian, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, the Task Force had 16 members – most of them senior bureaucrats drawn from various departments. Large-scale irregularities by government officials and direct collusion of bureaucrats and politicians with the real estate mafia were detailed in the report, titled “Greed and Connivance”.

Rejecting the report at a press conference on July 6, Karunakara Reddy stated that the report had not been accepted by the other members of the Task Force. He later said that the report had not been received in a sealed cover and had been passed to the media before it was submitted to the government.

Balasubramanian refuted the Minister's claims. “The reasons given by the Minister are invalid and untrue,” he told Frontline. “I sent out a copy of the report – including a Kannada translation – to all members on June 23, and no one had any objection to it except for a minor point raised by the Lake Development Authority [LDA]. The final meeting of the committee was fixed for July 4 and no one had any objection to my presentation of the report.”

He also dismissed Reddy's charge that he had passed on the report to the media before submitting it to the government. “I submitted the report to the Chief Secretary several hours before my press conference,” he averred.

Karunakara Reddy is one of the three Reddy brothers whose names are associated with the large-scale illegal mining activities in Bellary.

Why has the Revenue Minister rejected the report so vehemently? A close look at its contents will give one a clear idea.

The report reveals that 11.07 lakh acres (1 acre = 0.4 hectare) of public land has been encroached upon in Karnataka, which is 10 per cent of all government land in the State. The report also concedes that this a grossly under-reported figure. The Task Force had tabulated the data based on government sources and also complaints filed by the general public.

By government land, the report means lands belonging to the State Revenue Department, Forest Department and statutory bodies such as city corporations and town panchayats. Historically, gomaal (grazing land) has formed the bulk of the ‘commons', meaning resources that are supposed to belong to local communities. Other types of government lands are gunduthopes (fruit orchards and wooded village areas) in southern Karnataka; 38,000 tanks and lakes; smashanas (burial grounds); forests; Muzrai and Wakf land, and so on.

The report takes particular note of encroachments in and around Bangalore. It states: “This scramble for land (in Bangalore) has resulted, especially during the past 20 years, in encroachments on government and public land and land grabbing by powerful builders and land mafia with active involvement of persons in power – in politics, administration and real estate.”

It points out how vast tracts of prime land within the city were sold for a song with the connivance of officials of the Revenue Department. The sale of a valuable property near the Bangalore international airport, which did not go to the highest bidder, shows the involvement of the current Revenue Minister, Balasubramanian added. Lakes and waterbodies in Bangalore have also been filled up by the State government as part of a regularisation drive and large builders have illegally destroyed lakes. Only a handful of the 937 lakes in the records actually exist.

The report exposes the Bangalore Development Authority's (BDA) abysmal record in preventing encroachments. The report points out that many officials of the Revenue Department have been ‘trapped' by the Lokayukta.

Forest lands

Official records show that 1,65,796 acres of forest land has also been lost to encroachment. While it is assumed that mostly small and marginal farmers encroach on forest land, in parts of western Karnataka, which has the largest area under forests, it is the big coffee planters who are at fault. Forest lands are also the prime target of politicians as the case of encroachment by a former Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly shows.

While there are a number of Central and State-level Acts – such as the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964; the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1986; the Forest Conservation Act, 1980; and the Wakf Act, 1993 – to check encroachment of public land, the glaring non-compliance witnessed in Karnataka shows how ineffective these laws are at times.

Administrative wrangling

There is the Karnataka Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Bill, which was passed by the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council in 2007 but has been waiting for presidential assent for the past four years. The Bill has stringent clauses, including the setting up of a dedicated special court to address issues of encroachment. Unfortunately, the passage of the Bill has been mired in administrative wrangling between the Centre and Karnataka. Balasubramanian feels that the State does not have the will to get the Bill approved.

The Balasubramanian-led Task Force is the first body that was set up to look into encroachment of government land across Karnataka and is one of the first such task forces set up in the country. Earlier, in July 2005, a Joint Legislature Committee (JLC) had been set up under the chairmanship of A.T. Ramaswamy to look into the same issue, but its mandate was restricted to Bangalore. The JLC submitted two reports to the Legislative Assembly in 2007, but as the legislature was dissolved in November 2007, no action was taken.

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said that he would look into the Balasubramanian Task Force report. Yeddyurappa had burnt his fingers in the past by trying to take on the powerful Reddy brothers. His noncommittal response could mean that this report will also go the way of the Ramaswamy report. On being asked whether he received all the necessary cooperation from government officials, Balasubramanian said: “Though the Task Force was appointed by the State, the irony was that every time we tried to take remedial action through the designated officials, the officers would be stopped by politicians. It is like the government stepping on the accelerator and the brake at the same time.”