BHUBANESWAR : The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) on Thursday arrested 13 primary lease-holders who had sold off their land at Ghangapatna despite cancellation of their leases, in turn, paving the way for the property to change owners some of whom turned out to be the high and mighty at a later stage.
The lease-holders were allotted one acre each for taking up agriculture during 1969-79, but they sold off the land at a later stage. Some of the arrested included 70-plus years old persons and most belonged to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories.
Deputy Inspector-General, EOW, Rajesh Kumar said the lease-holders were aware that their lease-hold had been cancelled, yet they sold off their land to different persons. In some cases, the land were fragmented and sold.
According to the investigation, following a direction of the Orissa High Court, the then Additional District Magistrate of Bhubaneswar had reviewed the land leased out at Ghangapatna and cancelled the same. During 1984-86, the ADM had asked the Bhubaneswar tehsildar to make a fresh inquiry before cancelling the lease-hold.
As per the norms, the land records of the cancelled land patches should have been corrected in the revenue register, but it was deliberately not done by the tehsil officials. Taking advantage of this, the original lease-holders started selling the land in patches and subsequently those land were recorded in the name of subsequent buyers.
“While role of middlemen is strongly suspected, we are trying to find out who are purchasers as well as their liability, notwithstanding who they are, influential or non-influential,” Kumar said.
Since most of the primary lease-holders are poor villagers, the EOW suspects that they may have been lured into selling their land by brokers. So far, the Revenue department has handed over records for 16 acres land whose lease-holds were cancelled but illegally sold later on. While many records are not available, those are being re-constructed.
Earlier, the EOW had held eight persons, including four government officials, for their alleged involvement in government land grabbing at Ghangapatna totalling 76 acres. The issue had hit headlines after a Trust, headed by Biju Janata Dal MLA Pranab Balabantray, was found to be acquiring land in the area.
Later, more political leaders and bureaucrats were found to be possessing land in Ghangapatna prompting the Government to hand over the case to the Crime Branch.