Odisha Forest, Revenue depts to conduct ‘joint inquiry’ on land grab

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 22:

After announcing separate inquiries by the Revenue and Forest departments to ascertain the type or kisam of the land illegally grabbed by the ruling party politicians and babus in the Ghangapatna area on the outskirts of the capital city, the Odisha government today announced that the two departments would conduct a joint inquiry into the issue in a move that points to its discomfiture over the issue.

Bijayshree Routray“There is some confusion over whether it is forest land or revenue land. So, I have asked for a joint verification by Revenue and Forest officials to ascertain the present status of the land. We will do everything possible to find out the original and present status of that land and also who is in possession. Everything will come out after the joint inquiry,” Revenue minister Bijashree Routray told media persons.

With the opposition Congress and BJP training their guns on the Odisha government and chief minister Naveen Patnaik for his ‘mysterious silence’ over the land grabbing case, today’s announcement smacks of a design by the government to postpone the crisis,  at least for some days.

Incidentally, while Routray had ordered an inquiry by his department on Wednesday, Forest minister Bikram Arukh  had asked the Chandaka DFO on Thursday to conduct an inquiry into the matter.

Interestingly, Arukh’s announcement came yesterday amid reports that the DFO had already got the matter probed by the local forest range officer, which found that the land belonged to ‘chhota jungle’ category requiring the permission of the Forest and Environment department for construction of a road. The DFO had even written to  the Khurda sub collector asking for ‘strong action’ against those who took up the construction for the road.

No wonder the opposition parties suspect that the so-called joint verification is only a ploy to hush up the matter as a number of BJD leaders and blue eyed babus of the Naveen Patnaik government are directly involved in the land grab scam.

“The government is saying that it has no knowledge about who constructed the 3 km stretch of road and the boundary wall on the land. But it is a matter of record that the villagers had informed the matter to the chief minister long before the matter came to fore. He has remained silent only to shield his party leaders including ministers and MPs,” said Leader of Opposition Narasingh Mishra.

BJP leader Pratap Sarangi was at his sarcastic best when he said, “The people who have done such an illegal act surely belong to poor families. They should be given BPL cards by Naveen Patnaik.”

Meanwhile, Pranab Balbantray, son of former Panchayati Raj minister and BJD MP Kalpataru Das, admitted that he had bought the controversial land at Ghangapatna, but claimed that it had been sold off.

“The land was purchased in the name of our trust. When the land was bought, its kisam ( type) was Baje Phasal. We had bought it for setting up an educational institution, which did not materialise. That is why it was sold off in 2012,” said Pranab.

He, however, did not reveal from whom the land was purchased and who it was sold to, thus lending credence to the allegations that the land grabbers as well as their protectors in the government have ganged up to destroy all evidence and bury the controversy by hook or crook.

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