Move to regularise encroached govt land draws flak

Bhubaneswar: As the State government is mulling a legislation to facilitate regularisation of encroachments on government land, Opposition parties today alleged that the proposed move is a political ploy to help high-profile encroachers ahead of polls.

Revenue Minister, Maheswar Mohanty, on Thursday, had said “Discussions were held on regularisation of unopposed and non-slum government land with houses on it. A draft bill is being prepared and no final decision has been taken yet.”

What is surprising is the fact that the State government had brought the Odisha Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Ordinance in April 2015 to curb encroachments. As per the ordinance, there is a provision of seven years of jail and penalty of Rs 20,000 for encroachers. The ordinance remained in force for three months.

Though the bill following the ordinance was passed by the State Assembly, it did not get President’s assent. Thereafter the State government sent the bill to the Law department for changes and has still remained silent. Now, the government is mulling a bill which is in stark contrast to the land grabbing prohibition bill.

Congress leader and opposition chief whip Taraprasad Bahinipati stated “As several leaders of the ruling party have constructed big buildings on encroached government land, the ruling party is planning to bring a modified bill.”

“This proposed bill should be rechristened as Biju land encroachment scheme. This new law will facilitate land grabbing process for those who are in power,” said BJP State Secretary, Lekhashree Samantsinghar.

Declining to comment, BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra said “When no decision has been taken, comments from the opposition party are a bit premature. Let there be a decision first.”

Sources said 45,000 acres of government land have been encroached upon in the State of which 474 acres land are in Bhubaneswar.