DQ scam: Cornered Odisha government announces ToR for Task Force

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Aug 12:

After facing flak from various quarters on the lack of clarity on how the Task Force constituted by it would go about doing its job of probing the misuse of discretionary quota (DQ) in allotment of land and houses in the Twin City, the Odisha government today announced the term of reference (ToR) for the Task  Force headed by additional chief secretary for Revenue Taradutt.

BDAAs per the ToR announced by the government, the Task Force would probe all allotments under the discretionary quota from 1 Jan 1995 to 31 July  this year. It will probe all allotment of land, flats and houses in the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack urban areas under the discretionary quota. It will also probe into allotment of more than one unit of land/plot/flat to members of the same family.

The Task Force would submit its findings and recommendations to the government within a period of four months and action would be initiated according to the recommendations, said an order issued by the General Administration (GA) department today.

Curiously, the delayed ToR still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Interestingly, the state government, which has allowed four long months to probe the DQ issue, stopped at 1995 and did not include 1990-95 period, when Biju Patnaik was the chief minister.

For one thing, it does not clarify why the Task Force should probe allotments till July 31, 2014 when the Odisha government claims to have repealed allotments under the discretionary quota since 2011 in the wake of the uproar over minister Bikram Keshari Arukh availing two houses in the capital city under the discretionary quota.

Arukh, it may be noted, had to return one of the two houses he had availed following all-round criticism. On its part, the government had announced then that it was abolishing the discretionary quota altogether.

But the ToR announced today suggests that allotments under the quota have not really stopped notwithstanding the announcement to this effect by the government.

There are also question marks over the time frame given to the Task Force. “Why does the Task Force need four months to complete the probe when all that it has to do is to review a total of about 750 allotments and find out which ones among them were done in violation of rules and norms?” asked someone familiar with the issue.

“A month’s time should have been enough,” he added.

The only explanation for the long time given to the Task Force is that the government is banking on the proverbial short memory of the public to tide over the crisis that is threatening to assume unmanageable proportions.

It would also provide plenty of time for the government to whitewash some allotments which could implicate ruling party bigwigs in the scam, he said.

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