VISAKHAPATNAM: With Vizag all set to become a Smart City, land grabbers are on the prowl. Land and site owners in the city, who stay away from their property, will now have to exercise caution as there are groups which occupy and grab the properties. A group of people are found conduting a recce of various vacant lands, both government and private, and assess the possibility of grabbing them. Some of the gangs erect sheds and construct compound walls overnight. The land grabbers construct sheds and toilets and even let them out. In several cases, land grabbers were found to have obtained door numbers also get power connections.
The situation is such that the actual owners who return to find their houses occupied and approach the police for justice find the whole process quite difficult. The police are expressing their helplessness as such cases come under ‘civil dispute’, forcing owners to move courts, while the illegal occupants produce documents in a bid to drag the issue for years. While it has been noticed that some of the actual owners busy elsewhere and unable to spend time on the issue engage middlemen for settlements, the middlemen, mostly political leaders and top cadre officials, were found causing the owners losing the property or spending large sums of money.
The situation has only gotten worse since the the Central government’s announcement of Smart City.
The focus right now is on gangs which are involved in land grabbing cases frequently. As the police are washing off their hands by saying that the land grab cases come under civil disputes, some people with muscle power were learnt to be encroaching on lands and sites. The gangs are not only city-based but also come from Krishna, Guntur and Prakasam districts.
Though the Revenue, Endowments and the APIIC departments take measures to protect their prime lands, the government lands are being occupied by private parties at several places. Lack of manpower is costing the government very dearly as officials are unable to check the land encroachments on a daily basis.
Unable to protect the lands, Sri Varahalakshmi Nrusimha Swami Devasthanam executive officer K Ramachandra Mohan, after obtaining permission from the government, has started constructing a concrete compound wall around the Simhachalam hills to an extent of about 40 km. Already over 14-km long concrete wall was completed.
The land grabbing cases are mostly being reported from Madhurawada, Anandapuram, Bheemili, Pendurty, Gajuwaka, Aganampudi and Simhachalam areas. The police stations of the concerned areas register on an average three or more cases in a week. However, some cases prove a tough nut to crack even to the DIFT and Task Force Police. Some gangs sell the flats and sites to multiple persons using forged documents, rendering the lands to fall into disputes.
However, all the station house officers have been directed to make a list of land grabbers found committing the offence frequently. “We know ground realities about the land grabbing cases, but our hands are tied. Officially, the police cannot do anything in such cases, except filing FIR and taking it to court. It will take years and the victims expect swift justice from the police, but we are helpless,” an ACP lamented.
The ACP suggested that land owners take bank loans against the property which could be a strong evidence as banks extend loan after legal verification. Land owners should be alert and keep an eye on their property. It would still be better if compound wall is constructed and Vacant Land Tax (VLT) is paid to GVMC, he added.