CAG smells Rs.4,000-cr land scam in Orissa

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SummaryThe Comptroller & Auditor General of India(CAG) has detected large-scale irregularities in allotment of land and houses by the Orissa government and estimates a scam of about Rs.4,000 crore.

The Comptroller & Auditor General of India(CAG) has detected large-scale irregularities in allotment of land and houses by the Orissa government and estimates a scam of about R4,000 crore.

While sending a draft report to the Orissa government, a copy of which is available with FE, the CAG has suggested that the land and houses allotted to various individuals and organisations is in violation of the laws and policies and be cancelled immediately.

The state government has started cancelling the land and houses allotted by it on receipt of the draft report. “We have initiated the process of cancelling the land and houses allotted to various individuals and organisations in violation of the prevailing norms,” admitted a state government official, adding that about 15 houses and land have already been cancelled.

The CAG report, to be tabled in the Orissa Assembly during the budget session in February, is based on the audit conducted on land allotment by the general administration (GA) department —which owns most of the land in the capital city of Bhubaneswar — and development authorities like the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and the Cuttack Development Authority(CDA). The CAG is doing a performance audit of acquisition, development and allotment of land by the BDA, the allotment of government land by the GA department and the commitments on land made in the MoUs for setting up of industries in the state by the revenue department”.

The GA department has allotted prime land in Bhubaneswar to individuals and organisations, including hotels, educational institutions, cultural societies, NGOs and corporate houses. Similarly, the BDA and CDA have allotted plots and houses to various people and organisations from the discretionary quotas of the housing & urban development minister, who happens to be the ex-officio chairman of the two development authorities.

The CAG has found out that the government and the ministers have allotted plots and houses from their discretionary quota to several politicians, senior bureaucrats, judges, and journalists during the last 20 years. It has stated that there is no policy in exercising the allotments from the discretionary quota. What is worse, it has pointed out, some of the senior politicians, senior bureaucrats, journalists have cornered two and three plots and houses filing false affidavits.

Even as the land scam exposes the unholy nexus among the politicians, bureaucrats, judges and journalists, the CAG initially found it difficult to access the land records of the GA department, the BDA and the CDA due to stiff resistance from the concerned authorities. Particularly, the BDA was resisting the demand for production of the records. The GA department was reticent about producing records pertaining to land allotted to corporate houses like Jindal Steel & Power, Monnet Ispat & Energy, Bhusan Steel, Rungta Mines, JITPL, Action Ispat & Power, Easter Steel & Power, Brahmani River Pellet, Essar Steel, Adhunik Metalics, besides hotel Ashirbad, Hotel Soumya, Siksha ‘O’ Anusandhan University, Sibananda Public School, and Saraswati Sisumandir. Similarly, the BDA was reluctant to give records pertaining to several highrise buildings and apartments besides several individuals.

Such was the situation that the Orissa accountant general Amar Patnaik had to seek intervention of his seniors in Delhi to obtain the records. The additional deputy comproller & auditor general Revathy Iyer wrote to chief minister Naveen Patnaik on October 15, 2012, seeking the government’s cooperation in the audit. It was following the intervention of Patnaik that the records were made available to the CAG’s auditors for verifications, said a government official.

Unveiling a new plot

* CAG has suggested the land and houses allotted to individuals and organisations is in violation of the laws and be cancelled immediately

* The draft report is based on the audit conducted on land allotment by general administration dept and other development authorities

* Prime land in Bhubaneswar was allotted to organisations, including hotels, educational institutions, NGOs and corporate houses

The general administration department had allotted land to corporate houses like Jindal Steel & Power, Monnet Ispat & Energy, Bhusan Steel, Rungta Mines, JITPL, Action Ispat & Power, Easter Steel & Power, Brahmani River Pellet, Essar Steel, and Adhunik Metalics

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