CHENNAI: With land being the new gold, the real estate business has spawned sharks across the globe. Tamil Nadu is no exception, as land sharks, in connivance with officials, have often forged records to clinch high-value deals.
The race for big land projects and the lure of owning tracts of land in high-potential areas in Chennai’s suburbs that come under Tiruvallur and Chengalpattu districts have often led to dubious deals.
But Thalambur village, which was earlier in Kancheepuram and is now in Chengalpattu district, stands out in its notoriety for mysterious land records and a legal glitch that have become a major roadblock in the development of its infrastructure, causing immense hardship to its residents. The aftermath of cyclone Nivar brought to the fore the gross neglect of this area.
Several streets in Thalambur went under water and remained that way for over 12 days, forcing people living in large apartment complexes and houses to remain indoors. This may have been avoided had there been an uninterrupted effort at developing infrastructure in that zone. “About 300 residents in the village had not moved to the main road for nearly 12 days. Essentials like groceries, milk, cooking gas, vegetables, and other items were purchased and transported by tractors.
We wanted the road to be heightened along with stormwater and drinking water facilities,” said a resident. But all the necessary steps towards developing the area can be taken only if the legal hurdle that is faces is sorted out. This legal hurdle has its origin to the British era! The scrutiny of land data belonging to Thalambur, which is located on the IT corridor of OMR in the south-eastern outskirts of Chennai, takes us back to its history in the 19th century.
According to official sources, Sadavarthi Choultry was established in the early 19th century by Raja Vasireddy Venkkatadri Naidu in Amaravati, who was also the Zamindar of the region. During the British era, Amaravati was part of Madras Presidency. The choultry was developed with an objective to provide shelter to poor Brahmins. To meet the needs of the choultry, descendants of Vasireddy donated about 400-450 acres of land, which are now located in Thalambur, Navalur, and Pudur villages of Chengalpattu district in the State.
The Sadavarthi Choultry is now under the administration of the Andhra Pradesh government. The land, which remained as an unclaimed property, was then classified as “Anadheenam” (government land) in the revenue records of Kancheepuram district. In 1991, the then Chengalpattu tahsildar wrote to the Andhra Pradesh government informing about the lands. After a series of litigations in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and the Supreme Court, the AP government auctioned the lands last year.
However, it had not been undertaken yet. In the meanwhile, Tamil Nadu government has filed a petition in Madras High Court, claiming title over lands in Thalambur. This issue had even rocked the Andhra Pradesh government during the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) regime. Amid this grey zone, another scandal was busted by the Chengalpattu district administration, in which government land of over 105 acres in Thalambur village was transferred to private persons illegally between 2018 and 2019. The pattas (land documents) were suspended and a case was registered against three officials.
In connection with the fraudulent transfer of 105 acres of government land, Kancheepuram Central Crime Branch police had registered a case in August. However, no arrest has been made yet. When contacted, revenue officials said land transactions that happened in the last few years in Thalambur are being scrutinised. Citing pending cases in Madras HC and a few other courts, officials refused to make any comments.
All these incidents of forgery in land records, besides causing a great deal of agony to land owners, have resulted in multiple court cases, obstructing the development of the village. The government’s decision to suspend the pattas for the few land parcels is expected to delay the provision of basic amenities such as a proper stormwater drainage system and drinking water facilities in the village. But till then, residents of this village will continue to live in fear of being marooned in the island of fraud.
According to official sources, Sadavarthi Choultry was established in the early 19th century by Raja Vasireddy Venkkatadri Naidu in Amaravati, who was also the Zamindar of the region.