Puri land scam: Surya Patro creates storm

Puri: The irregularities in transferring huge tracts of land at Sipa Sarubali were conducted during the Congress regime. That was the statement of revenue minister Surya Narayan Patro. Surya Patro has naturally ruffled the Congress feather and the opposition leaders have demanded a high-level inquiry by an independent agency into the entire episode. The other opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded that since the beneficiaries included several influential persons, the government should not hesitate to make the names public.

Around 1,306 acres of land at which were transferred to private persons have been claimed back by the government. Another 1,500 acre need to be reacquired by the government. But that is lot easier said than done since the wrong-doers included the names of several influential persons and VIPs including politicians. And their number is also not small.   They are around one thousand. They are high and mighty.

The three major political parties in the state have started politicking over the scam. Former revenue minister and senior BJP leader said that the government should make those names public who have grabbed government land through dubious means. But the revenue minister Surya Narayan Patro claimed that the iregularities were conducted when the Congress was in power. Not to be outdone and to put up a challenge to the BJD and te revenue minister, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, Bhupinder Singh countered that the truth will come out before everybody provided the government agreed for an independent probe.

Reliable records showed that about 2,879 acres of land were registered against the names of 66 persons during the 1977 consolidation programme. But by the time the matter was detected in 1994, the ownership was registered against 539 names. The then Puri sub-collector in 1996 had filed cases against all the 539 persons. While the matter was still pending in the court, the number of owners has gone beyond a thousand. Most ironically, there was no agricultural land at Sipa sarubali while the rules entailed that for consolidation at least 35 percent land must be agricultural land.

The accusations and counter accusations notwithstanding, the fact remains that the government had filed 166 cases in the settlement tribunal to get back 2,879 acres of land. Out of that only eight cases have been disposed off while the rest are pending decision. Around one thousand private persons are involved in the 158 cases pending decision. And most importantly, no one knows when all the cases will be finalised and the government would again become the land owner.