An incident of illegal sale of government land has come to light in Guwahati, wherein besides the involvement of land mafias, allegations have also surfaced against Assam government officials and the then minister in charge of the revenue department for forging documents and handing over several bighas of land to a city businessman.
As per sources, a non-Assamese businessman based in the city called Pradeep Agarwal bought more than seven bighas of land in the green belt with the help of a government official.
The land situated at Betkuchi village under Dispur Revenue Circle P.O. 91 is a restricted property of the government that is not for sale; however, by fraudulent means, Agarwal had purchased and registered the land in his name back in 2005-06.
It is pertinent to mention here that the then Kamrup Metro Deputy Commissioner had also proposed to allocate the six bighas of land to an organization called North East Agriculture Sitfarm and Research Center. Notably, the land belonged to both Railways and the LGBI Airport; however, all sorts of tactics were adapted to give away the land to a non-Assamese businessman.
Such green belt lands are directly rejected for commercial sale purposes and land settlement, however, tactfully a No Objection Certificate was obtained from the concerned departments. It may be mentioned here for a long time there was no response from the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority to the railways if there would be any difficulty in setting up the agricultural farm and research center. However, according to the Guwahati town plan no objection was granted to the plea.
Noteworthy, the then Minister of the Department of Revenue at the time did not approve of the Urban Development Department's request to keep the land away from the green zone, but later added another reminder to the matter.
Meanwhile, as per sources, the Urban Development Department strategically agreed to sell or buy the land without any objection or reply in this regard.
Through means of offering heavy bribes, Pradeep Agarwal managed almost all the documents required for the sale of the land.
In the meantime, the revenue minister permitted a land settlement of four bighas under P.O. 91 of Betkuchi village.
At the time of granting this permission, it was directed to allot in this land in the name of North East Agriculture Sitfarm and Research Centre. It was also directed that horticultural crops would be cultivated in the area through this agricultural farm and research center. For this purpose, permission was sought from the Land Advisory Committee for the said land.
But later on, under this very circle, Assamese traders were tactfully given away lands for purchase as well.
Thereafter getting the permission of the Land Advisory Committee, the proposal regarding land was changed and a way was paved for trader Agarwal to claim the land.
Due to such irregularities in the sale and purchase of the said land, the Department of Revenue had allotted new marks and lease numbers for the land. Accordingly, new spots of land and lease numbers were given – 3238 and 1938 respectively.
Sources have also mentioned that the treasury money was given for the settlement of this land by presenting two receipts, however, it is still doubtful whether the receipts were actually deposited or not.
As stated in the file prepared, there was one invoice of Rupees 29.25 lakhs, while, the second invoice was for Rupees 39 lakhs.
All such scandalous information about the sale and purchase of this land came to light due to the information submitted by the Additional Chief Secretary of the Revenue Department.
At that time, the Kamrup Metropolitan Deputy Commissioner had brought to light that the settlement order was not mentioned in ADLAC minutes. Moreover, Doubts have also been raised against the NOC submitted in this regard.
Therefore, it should be taken note of that the NOCs given in the allotment of land in the name of North East Agricultural Chit Farm and Research Center in the name of Pradeep Kumar Agarwal and KRC Warehouses are questionable.
Serious allegations have been made against officials working at the Kamrup Metro deputy commissioner's office at that time in relation to this land acquisition scam.
It may be mentioned here, at the time of these illegal proceedings, the circle officer of the Dispur revenue circle is Kabita Deka. Also, there have been alleged involvements of the Lat Mandal Bhageshwar Das and Kamrup Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ratul Baruah.
Similarly, a local club called Navajagaran Sangha has also lodged a complaint against an Assamese businessman for allegedly acquiring green belt land.
The matter reflects the alleged involvement of a minister, officials of revenue, and other concerned departments to help businessman Pradeep Agarwal acquire a land that could never be allotted for sale.
The greater concerns are how could a land in the first place be allotted and sold to an individual when it belonged to the authorities of the Railways and Aviation? Moreover, how could a land be sold to an individual for the purpose of horticulture cultivation? Two definite conclusions could arrive that the documents submitted to acquire and purchase the land were either forged or there has been the involvement of the top officials of the concerned departments in helping a trader for the land acquisition.
Further, why didn't the revenue department or the State government take any action after the Navajagaran Sangha lodged a formal complaint regarding this serious irregularity? More importantly, it should be noted that Pradeep Agarwal has used the green belt land for various purposes.