Odisha BJD MLA in the dock over land grab in Ghangapatna

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 22:

Irrefutable evidence has now emerged about the involvement of some senior BJD leaders in the encroachment of around 100 acres of village forest land in Ghangapatna area on the outskirts of Odisha capital.

Pranab Balabantaray, Dharmasala MLA
Pranab Balabantaray, Dharmasala MLA

As per official records, the Revenue department has already issued patta for five acres out of the 100 acres encroached by Pranab Balabantaray, BJD MLA from Dharmasala and son of Rajya Sabha member and party vice president Kalpataru Das, in his name after mutation while efforts were on to confer ownership of the remaining portion of the land to him.

Of the five acres of land against which the Revenue department has issued patta, three acres has been recorded in the name of Gokarneswar Charitable Trust controlled by Balabantray, while two acres has been recorded in his own name.

It may be mentioned that the CAG, in its recent report, had listed a series of fraudulent activities by the Trust.

The speed at which the whole mutation process was carried out has surprised many. While it normally takes anywhere between 10 to 15 years for mutation of land, the whole process has been completed in less than three years in this case.

Curiously, the Dharmasala MLA had made no mention of the two acres of land that has been recorded in his name in his affidavit filed with the Election Commission during the last election.

Asked about the omission, Balabantaray now says that the land belongs to the Trust and the Record of Rights  has been made in his name “by mistake”.

“Since I was not aware of this, I had not mentioned this in the affidavit,” Balabantray said.

But Balabantray has admitted that he has constructed boundaries around the plot that is in his name and also dug a tube well on the plot.

Making it clear that the road under construction does not pass through his land, the Dharmasala MLA said he has no idea which department was constructing the road.

Contacted, Panchayati Raj minister Arun Sahu said the state government had sanctioned Rs 5 lakh for construction of the road in the area. However, the sanctioned amount has remained unspent due to dispute among the villagers on the course of the road.

It is worthwhile here to mention that the people of Ghangapatna village, in 2008, had apprised chief minister Naveen Patnaik of encroachment of about 40 acres of barren and forest land and 135 acres of barren and hilly land by a group of influential leaders who had started construction work on these lands.

However, the chief minister, instead of taking action, preferred to remain silent.

Reliable sources said the process for ownership of the encroached government land began in the last three years and these influential leaders managed to take possession of the land by obtaining a patta by putting pressure on the local tehsildar to dispose of the rejected cases through settlement in their favour.

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