In Lord Jagannath of Puri’s name, 25,000 acres, a lot of it encroached

Bhubaneswar: He is possibly the only god in India who owns so much land —25,711 acres — but Lord Jagannath is struggling to get part of it back from encroachers.

Lord Jagannath, presiding deity of the 12th century temple in Puri, is listed as a landlord in the Orissa government’s revenue records. He reportedly owns 56,000 acres, of which at least 25,711 acres is registered against the name of “Sri Jagannath Mahaprabhu Bije, Puri” in the state’s land revenue records. The temple’s managing committee headed by the Puri king manages the land on behalf of the deity. The lands are spread over 23 of Orissa’s 30 districts as well as states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

But the land mafia, allegedly helped by bureaucrats and corrupt politicians, is believed to have parcelled away at least 20 per cent of his recorded land in Orissa. Chief administrator of the temple Arvind Padhee, a senior IAS officer, decided to strike back early this week. The temple administration cleared 250 acres in Jatni area near Bhubaneswar and Delang area of Puri district. The land is worth an estimated Rs 500 crore.

“When I started clearing the area, there were goons all over the place. But we were determined to clear it,” said Padhee, who as revenue divisional commissioner, central division, has been trying to get the lord’s land records updated. Among the alleged encroachers was the son of a former Assam governor, whose stone crusher was obscuring the landscape. The anti-encroachment team’s bulldozers razed a rice processing mill, a housing society, a market complex and several dhabas that had mushroomed over the land. A head clerk working at the temple’s Jatni office, who was found guilty of conniving with the land mafia, was suspended.

Officials said the encroachers had sought to justify the land-grabbing, saying it had been authorised by the endowment commissioner under the Orissa Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1951. But Padhee cited section 16(3) of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, which says any transfer of immovable property recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath of Puri by any person including any institution would be null and void. As per section 2(1) of the temple Act, the provisions of the Hindu religious endowments Act are not applicable to the temple except with respect to actions taken, things done and contributions levied as such.

Padhee said the temple administration is now planning to evict encroachers from at least 1,000 acres in the next few weeks. After it is freed, the land would be sold to the general public through the Bhubaneswar Development Authority. The funds so generated would be deposited in the temple corpus fund.

Encouraged by the success of the drive, the temple administration is now in the process of identifying the remaining 30,000 acres for which there is no record of rights as yet. “Most of these lands are in districts of Puri, Khurda, Cuttack and Ganjam. If we get back the land, the lord’s would probably be the richest among all shrines in India,” Padhee said.

In Lord Jagannath of Puri’s name, 25,000 acres, a lot of it encroached
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  • Govt to auction land for commercial purposes

    BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government on Friday announced it would lease out land to commercial establishments through auction, days after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) rapped its 'arbitrary' land allotment policy in the capital city.

    Revenue minister S N Patro said land to multiplexes, hotels and other commercial complexes would be given through the bidding route, while land will be allotted through societies for affordable housing. "We have prepared a draft land grant policy after studying policies of other states. Land allotment through auctioning will start after the cabinet gives its nod," Patro said after a meeting of a cabinet sub-committee. This came on the eve of Bhubaneswar's foundation day celebrations.

    CAG had said the general administration department allotted 464.47 acre in Bhubaneswar in 337 cases during 2000-12 (when the BJD was in power) to individuals, government offices and private bodies for establishment of hotels, hospitals, educational institutions and non-government organizations without any defined policy or procedure. The central auditor found there was no uniformity in disposal of applications, sanction of concession on premium to be paid, changes in land use plan and resumption of encroached land. Proclamations inviting public objections as stipulated in Odisha Government Land Settlement Rules were not published in any of the 164 test checked cases, it added.

    The state government had earlier announced it would enact a new legislation to retrieve encroached land. Official sources said the government has prepared a draft law and would soon place it for cabinet approval. Patro had said around 40,000 acre of government land was encroached in the state.

    Govt to auction land for commercial purposes - The Times of India
  • Bhubaneswar investors ditch real estate for gold rush dive

    BHUBANESWAR: Apart from retail buyers rushing to jewellery shops to buy gold lured by a sharp fall in prices, several short-term real estate investors here are buying the yellow metal worth crores of rupees.

    According to sources, investors in the city generally put their money in high end-properties during conceptual stage and sell those when these are ready for possession by a handsome profit margin. But due to a perceived slump in the housing sector, many of them have now jumped into gold. Sources said this segment of buyers has mostly purchased gold coins in crores and have stashed them in bank lockers. "A decline in the price of gold has always been a temporary phenomenon. Hoping that it will shoot up again, the short-term investors who buy and sell high-end housing properties are buying the yellow metal only to sell when the price shoots up again," said Pradipta Kumar Biswasray, president of Real Estate Developers Association of Odisha (REDA).

    "I have invested around Rs 4 crore in gold coins with the help of a bank and kept it there. I did not want to keep the cash for long in the current account since this seemed like an opportunity," said another realtor preferring anonymity.

    The speculative buyers seemed right as after a quick fall from above Rs 30,000 per 10 gram in the previous week to around Rs 25,000, gold prices now seem to be on a recovery path, with the metal registering Rs 27,000 per 10 gram on Monday.

    Sections of real estate developers feel the recent fluctuation in gold price has eroded people's traditional faith in the yellow metal, which will benefit the real estate sector. "Gold and land have been traditional investment avenues for most Indian homes and are regarded safe while late entrants such as shares, stocks and mutual funds are considered comparatively risky. With the latest price fluctuation of gold, the myth that gold rate will never fall is over. It leaves only the real estate as the safest investment destination," said D S Tripathy, joint secretary of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai).

    However, there cannot be a direct transition of all gold buyers into land as the investment sizes for middle class in gold and land are quite different, Tripathy said. Besides, gold is a cultural necessity in Indian homes as one has to buy it on occasions of birth, marriage, etc.

    The slump in gold price has also heralded brisk business for jewelers. "The footfall has gone up by 50%. The sale has also increased sharply," said Mitesh Khimji, director, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF), the apex body of the domestic jewellery trade.

    Bhubaneswar investors ditch real estate for gold rush dive - The Times of India
  • BDA plans concrete jungle around zoo

    BHUBANESWAR: The Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) has initiated the process to allow construction in the periphery of Nandankanan. The state government had imposed a ban on construction within one-km radius of the zoo in 2011.

    To clear the pending construction proposals around the zoo, BDA planning member Pitabasa Sahoo recently wrote to housing and urban development (H&UD) department to withdraw the government restriction.

    The H&UD department had issued an office order banning real estate activities around the zoological park on February 3, 2011, after a directive from the Orissa High Court in January that year. Responding to a petition, the HC in an interim order had prohibited constructions activities around the zoo. Though the court vacated its curb, the government restriction still continues.

    "Since the court has lifted its ban, we have requested the government to allow building activities around the zoo as per the BDA norms. Many applicants have approached the BDA to clear their building plan by producing the HC order," said Sahoo.

    After the court lifted its ban, the BDA had requested the H&UD department to withdraw its office order on the restriction in December last year too. "After the government lifts its bar, projects proposals conforming to the BDA planning and building regulations will be cleared as per the comprehensive development plan (CDP)," he said.

    If the government lifts the ban, periphery of Nandankanan will witness a construction boom as nearby Chandrasekharpur and Patia are sought-after locations for housing, sources said.

    BDA plans concrete jungle around zoo - The Times of India
  • Outfit to move SC against demolition

    CUTTACK: A new outfit, Dharamanusthan Surakhya Samiti, came into existence on Saturday. The outfit said it would move the Supreme Court against the Orissa high court order of demolition of religious structures in Cuttack.

    President of the samiti Arun Panda said demolition is being carried out in violation of Supreme Court's order. The apex court had ordered that religious structures, constructed illegally on government land after September, 2009, shall be demolished. However, the Orissa high court advanced the cut-off date to 1987, he said.

    The Supreme Court had further said unauthorised religious structures shall be reviewed on case to case basis before demolition but no such step was taken by the Cuttack administration, Panda said.

    Outfit to move SC against demolition - The Times of India
  • Spiralling city razes pedestrian paths

    BHUBANESWAR: The burgeoning capital city spinning into the fast lane is becoming pedestrian unfriendly by the day. According to a recent study, there is hardly any space for non-motorized transport on the city roads, resulting in untold hardships for pedestrians and cyclists.

    A survey conducted by Local Governance Network observed pedestrian paths are being used for parking vehicles, forcing people to take the road route on foot, dodging vehicles dangerously. Over 70% of the 217 commuters and pedestrians quizzed for the survey felt the city roads are not safe for pedestrians. "Occasionally, we would like to walk short distances instead of riding a scooter or a bike to escape the danger of speeding vehicles. But due to lack of proper roads to walk on, one is tempted to spend a few extra rupees on fuel even to travel short distances, which can easily be covered on foot," said one of the respondents in the survey.

    "More or less the study observed that pedestrians are slowly losing their identity in the city. The city needs to accept pedestrians very much as a larger part of the urban setting. The city will have to have designated pedestrian paths so that there is no clash between motorized commuting and walking," said urban planer P R Rout. The city lost most of its walkways half a decade ago due to faulty planning while expanding roads, he pointed out.

    Sources said most of the city roads have now become eight lanes, all of which are dedicated to vehicular traffic. Denizens rued that not one of these lanes is dedicated to pedestrians. "Over 90% people felt chopping down of trees is one of the causes of poor walking record in the city, while 89% felt that barriers like railway lines and road blockades also discourage walking. At least 92% pedestrians were in favour of proper zebra crossings. Over 10% said they would like more foot overbridges in the city," said Rout, who was part of the study.

    Crossing roads is another major area of contention for pedestrians, especially senior citizens. "There is fault from the planning stage. Pedestrians' comfort is never the concern of the planners while most of the cities in developed countries first think about the walkers. The zebra crossings in the city are very poorly demarcated," said former diplomat Abasar Beuria.

    As per rules, there should be zebra crossings at every 500 meter interval on the city roads. While it is 2 km on the NH, for a single lane the length of zebra line is 3.5 meter and for double lanes it is 7 meter.

    According to a civic official, however, there are excess zebra lines on some roads at cut points. "From Kalpana to Rasulgarh square there are about 32 crossings, while there should be only 11 crossings. But excess crossings also at times lead to problems as there is little space left for motorists to stop near traffic signals," he said.

    The Citizens' Apex Association, a civil society group here, has been writing to the authorities to create pedestrian plazas on the roadsides for the last two decades.

    Spiralling city razes pedestrian paths - The Times of India
  • Office of real estate company Hi-Tech Group sealed in Odisha

    BHUBANESWAR: The corporate office of the real estate company, Hi-Tech Group, in Odisha was sealed by the crime branch police in an alleged land fraud case.

    "We have sealed the head office to protect the interest of the people who have deposited money in the Hi-Tech Group," Crime Branch DIG Rajesh Kumar said.

    He said depositors would be entitled to get some returns of their investment through liquidation if a new law was enacted.

    Hi-Tech Group lawyer P Sahu termed as illegal the sealing of the office.

    "How can the agency seal the office without the court's permission when the matter is sub-judice?" the lawyer asked.

    The DIG said the sealing of the office was part of the investigation.

    The Crime Branch had on December 25 last year arrested the chief of the company, Tirupati Panigrahi and two of his associates, Tirupati Choudhury and Madhusudan Panigrahi for allegedly duping land buyers of their money.

    Three of them are still in judicial custody.

    Office of real estate company Hi-Tech Group sealed in Odisha - The Economic Times
  • Realtor funded Odia films

    BHUBANESWAR: Builder Narayan Chandra Nayak, arrested by the Crime Branch on Wednesday in connection with fraudulent land deals to the tune of Rs 50 crore, was taken on two-day remand by police.

    "Prima facie, he collected the staggering amount from nearly 1,200 people with the false promise of giving them land in and around Bhubaneswar. We have so far received 250 complaints," said ADG (Crime Branch) B K Sharma.

    The CB is trying to find out whether Nayak diverted money into other business. Police have the information that he invested huge amounts on two recently released Odia movies. While two of his expensive cars, worth nearly Rs 1.5 crore, have already been seized, efforts are on to seize more property.

    In a related development, scores of people on Thursday lodged complaints with the Crime Branch against Sai Shares and Securities Pvt Ltd for allegedly duping them. "The company, having offices in Bhubaneswar and Kolkata, had promised us land on the outskirts of the city, but backtracked," said Sanjeev Hota, a complainant.

    Realtor funded Odia films - The Times of India
  • Bhubaneswar Development Authority demolition drive runs into legal tangle

    BHUBANESWAR: A massive demolition drive planned by Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) has run into rough weather with most of the encroachers getting stay orders from the Orissa high court. The BDA had scheduled the two-week drive from Friday.

    "We are almost ready with the plan. However, most of the affected the persons have obtained stay orders from the court," BDA secretary Shreekanta Kabi told TOI.

    The BDA had proposed demolition at 11 locations between June 21 and July 4. The two-week long drive by the development agency was among its most ambitious plans in recent times. It had readied all its apparatus and asked police to deploy armed personnel at the proposed demolition sites.

    The agency would have demolished unauthorized constructions in areas under Laxmisagar, Nayapalli, Chandrasekharpur, Khandagiri, Info City and Badagada police limits. It had listed a two-storey structure at Laxmisagar as unauthorised and another for partly encroaching on government land. Demolition of these structures was scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

    At Nayapalli, the BDA had mooted demolition of a building on government land and another for violating BDA norms, on June 25 and June 26. Four houses at Chandrasekharpur were to be demolished between June 26 and June 29 for either encroaching on government land or violating building norms. One building each at Khandagiri, Infocity and Badagada were to be razed between July 1 and July 4.

    Ever since its formation in 1983 under the Odisha Development Authority Act 1982, the BDA has detected around 20,000 violations. However, it has taken action against less than 1,000 of them. Between 2007 and 2009, BDA regularized 3,849 unauthorized structures by charging a fee under the 'regularization scheme.' It had received 5,498 applications.

    Bhubaneswar Development Authority demolition drive runs into legal tangle - The Times of India
  • Land dispute cell in limbo

    BHUBANESWAR: Four years have passed since the commissionerate of police announced that it would open a dedicated cell to address grievances related to land disputes. But it is still a non-starter.

    While police said the matter is awaiting the state government's nod, duped investors have demanded early establishment of the cell, which should function akin to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Crime Branch.

    "The EOW was opened to address financial fraud. The government should immediately start a cell to take up grievances related to land rackets," said Shakti Ranjan Dash, who is still running from pillar to post to get a land from a builder, who reneged on the deal despite taking Rs 5 lakh from him.

    "Sarala Realcon's owner Gayadhar Jena has duped several people and we are still not sure whether our money would be refunded," said Dash. Jena was recently arrested by Saheed Nagar police.

    Police are also under scanner for allegedly dissuading people from lodging complaints on the pretext that land disputes should be fought in courts. "Police are hand in glove with controversial builders and ask us to file a case in court instead, which is a lingering process. Sometimes, they refuse to entertain land disputes stating that they overburdened with other cases," said Kailas Chandra Mohanty, another duped land buyer.

    President of Real Estate Developers Association of Odisha Pradipta Kumar Biswasroy said in the wake of spurt in land scams in Bhubaneswar, the proposed cell should be made functional at the earliest. "It will not only come to rescue of police but also benefit the victims," Biswasroy said.

    As many as 20 builders of different controversial real estate firms have been arrested in the last six months. Prominent among them are High-Tech Group chief Tirupati Panigrahi, Seashore Group's Prashant Dash, Artha Tatwa chief Pradeep Sethy, Sarala Realcon owner Gayadhar Jena and Umamani Home Creations chief Narayan Chandra Nayak. "The series of land fraud cases and subsequent arrests has adversely affected our business," said a real estate developer.

    Land dispute cell in limbo - The Times of India
  • Realtor's murder in Bhubaneswar tip of the iceberg

    BHUBANESWAR: The brutal killing of a realtor over alleged land dispute at Nayapalli on Monday brought to fore spurt in crimes, stemming from flourishing real estate business in the city.

    While two murders, relating to land disputes, were reported in the past four days, nearly 15 cases were registered in different police stations over group clashes following land tussles in past one year. Earlier on August 8, builder Kingsukh Baran Das, 52, was killed by unidentified miscreants at Daruthenga under Chandaka police limits.

    On April 16, two brothers were hospitalized after allegedly attacked with acid by their neighbour at Raghunathpur under Nandankanan police limits over a prolonged land dispute. Police were on their toes following clash between two groups over ownership of a disputed land at Kalarahanga under Mancheswar police limits here on February 5.

    Villagers of Andharua ransacked Chandaka police station on March 17, 2011, and pelted stones at cops, alleging shoddy investigation into the alleged murder of a land dealer, Manas Mahapatra, who was found dead on March 12, 2011. Former DCP Himanshu Lal, among other police officers, was injured in the violence.

    Experts attributed the rising land scams and other land-related crimes to spiraling prices of land. "With land prices reaching a new high, crimes relating to land disputes have registered a sharp rise in a parallel manner. Land mafia are not only usurping land but also targeting their rivals to settle old score," said realtor, Jayant Kumar Mohanty.

    "It is high time police curbed the menace of land mafia. Many innocent people are also bearing the brunt of land disputes. Recently land mafia forcibly took signature of an elderly woman on a blank paper at Saheed Nagar," said resident, Sarat Chandra Mohapatra.

    Though the police had earlier announced to open a dedicated cell to exclusively address grievances, relating to land disputes, it still remains a non-starter. "Just as the government opened Economic Offences Wing to address financial fraud cases, it should immediately start a cell to deal with grievances on land frauds," said Mohapatra.

    In many cases, police came under scanner as complainants were scared away from police stations on the pretext that the land disputes should be fought in courts. "At times police connive with controversial builders and ask us to file cases in court, which is a very prolonged process," said another citizen, Kailas Chandra Mohanty.

    Realtor's murder in Bhubaneswar tip of the iceberg - The Times of India
  • Road hurdle for land owners

    BHUBANESWAR: Prasanta Satapathy doesn't earn enough to meet the cost of his treatment after he underwent kidney transplant in 2009. To depend on difficult time like this, the contractual PSU employee thought of monetizing a plot of land in the city he had bought a few years ago.

    "I wanted to build a house so that I save on the rent that I am paying now or sell the plot. But I can't do either, though I am in urgent need of money," he said.

    Satapathy is among about 500 people, whose land has been earmarked to be part of a road in Raghunathpur connecting Nandankanan with KIIT Square in the city's comprehensive development plan ( CDP). While Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) is showing no hurry to acquire the land and pay them compensation; they can neither sell the land nor build houses.

    "It's as good as having no property. We have made several rounds of representations to BDA," Satapathy said, after representing the matter at the weekly planning grievance cell of BDA on Friday.

    B C Rai, another man whose plot would also be a part of the proposed road, said if the plan is altered and the road is made straight, then only three private plots would have to be acquired. According to the current proposal, the road would be curved and plots of over 500 people need to be purchased. "The planning appears really odd," he said.

    Bishnupriya Parida, a woman who is also affected by the road, said, "The BDA should either acquire the land and give us our money back or allow us to build houses. We have invested our lifetime savings to buy a plot to build the house. But for about two years, we have been running from pillar to post in government offices, as if we have done some crime," she said.

    BDA authorities said the merits of various complaints will be duly considered. "Around 13 complaints were received on various planning-related issues during the grievance redressal. We will examine all the petitions and take appropriate steps," said Pitabasa Sahoo, member (town and regional planning) of BDA.

    Road hurdle for land owners - The Times of India
  • Bhubaneswar Development Authority's Rs 185 crore windfall to builder

    BHUBANESWAR: The Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) allegedly extended over Rs 185 crore undue benefits to the developer of a multi-storey residential complex, Utkal Heights, at Pahala through irregular and unlawful approval of its building plan, sources said.

    Quoting draft audit findings of the Account General Office here, sources said the agency unlawfully permitted construction of five blocks, having 6,19,427 square feet built-up area. The AG calculated the undue favour at Rs 3,000 per square feet, which is the selling price of the construction, totalling to Rs 1.85 crore.

    Sources said BDA approved the plan, violating BDA (Planning & Building Standard) Regulation-2008, though the builder didn't had mandatory documents such as structural plan and design, electrical plan, water supply and sewerage plan, soil test report and no objection certificates (NOCs) from National Airports Authority of India, fire department, National Highways Authority of India, power distributor Cesu and undertaking regarding construction of stormwater drain.

    Sources said BDA also favoured the builder in collection of security deposit. Though the agency should have collected refundable security of Rs 1.17 crore at the rate of Rs 100 per square metre, it collected only Rs 93.60 lakh, waiving Rs 23.80 lakh. The BDA authorities calculated security deposit by excluding the basement area from the total floor area of the building, though no such relaxation was permissible in the building regulation, it added.

    The AG has reportedly pointed out that BDA officials took no step to ensure non-encroachment of government land by the developer and a long part of a canal remains inside the permitted project area. In order to accommodate the plan of the builder within the framework of permissible regulation, BDA officials unlawfully included the entire project area divided into two parts by the canal as a single piece to calculate the floor area ratio (FAR), sources said.

    The audit body has asked the BDA to stop further construction at the project site, declare the entire structure as unauthorized and initiate legal action under Orissa Development Authorities Act. It suggested that if the builder secures all the necessary permissions, BDA may regularize the construction by charging compounding fee as applicable in case of unauthorized constructions.

    Subhas Bhura, managing director of Utkal Builders, said the company is complying with the audit objections. "Some of the clearances got delayed because of slow pace of work in various government offices," he said.

    The BDA authorities said they are examining the matter. "Since it is an old project, we need to look for details in the files before commenting on it," said BDA planning member Pitabasa Sahoo.

    Bhubaneswar Development Authority's Rs 185 crore windfall to builder - The Times of India
  • Realtors seek change in stamp duty clauses

    BHUBANESWAR: Real estate developers have sought the abolition of stamp duty, while entering into agreements with land owners to execute various projects.

    Though such a provision exists in the state since 2003, it was practically not affecting builders, as most of them never registered with such agreements. However, after banks recently started insisting on registration of such agreements before sanctioning loans, builders have now become jittery.

    While the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai) state unit has submitted a memorandum to revenue minister S N Patro recently, the Real Estate Developers Association (Reda) of Odisha is planning to make a similar representation soon.

    "The government is taking stamp duty twice in case of real estate projects. First, when the builder signs an agreement with the land owner to construct a project. Second, when individual buyers purchase houses from the developer. This duplication should be avoided," said Reda president Pradipta Biswasroy.

    According to the Indian Stamp (Orissa Amendment) Act, 2001, as amended in 2003, an agreement to sell any immovable property or power of attorney shall be deemed to be sold and stamp duty will be chargeable just like in conveyance deed. Odisha charges stamp duty at the rate of seven per cent.

    The act was not affecting the builders till recently when neither the government nor the housing loan providers insisted on registration of such agreements. However, after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out in 2011 that the government was losing out revenue on non-registration of such agreements, government authorities tightened enforcement. Some banks, including biggest lender State Bank of India (SBI), have made registered agreements pre-condition for giving housing loans, forcing builders to register such agreements.

    "We are not against registration, which is required to avoid future differences between the builder and land owner. However, full stamp duty like in case of sale is escalating project costs manifold. The government should change the stamp duty act to charge a nominal amount for such deals to boost the housing sector," said Credai joint secretary D S Tripathy.

    A senior officer said the government is examining the matter vis-a-vis provisions in other states. In neighbouring states such as Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, payment of stamp duty is not required in case of such agreements and power of attorney and the government charges a fixed amount.

    Realtors seek change in stamp duty clauses - The Times of India
  • BDA probe into payment fraud

    BHUBANESWAR: Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) has begun an in-house inquiry into payment by allottees of houses between 1992 and 2013 after it came to light that some of them had faked payments. BDA secretary Shreekant Kabi is leading the probe, government sources said.

    The development follows an audit by accountant general (AG), Odisha, which pointed out a misappropriation of Rs 11.59 lakh between February 2008 and May 2011. The AG had come across the fraud during performance audit for the period 2002-2003 to 2011-2012.

    Ten allottees of Jatni Housing Scheme had submitted 52 fake challans towards payment of their installment dues, the AG pointed out. It also found misappropriation of Rs 1.05 lakh by tampering with 44 challans towards deposit of plan approval between January 2009 and April 2011.

    The AG had asked the BDA to comply with the findings.

    Additional chief secretary (housing and urban development) Injeti Srinivas recently wrote a letter to AG Amar Patnaik informing him about the in-house inquiry by the BDA secretary. BDA has also asked the vigilance (police) to separately investigate the matter, he said.

    Srinivas wrote that after the audit findings, show-cause notices for cancellation of the allotment to the 10 specified allottees have already been served. Besides, the internal auditor has started a special audit of the allotment and planning branch of BDA for the years 1992-93 and 2012-13.

    To avert similar fraud in future, BDA has taken a number of initiatives, Srinivas wrote. The development authority has stopped issuing hand-written challans and replaced them with computer-generated ones. The agency has also stopped handwritten bank statements and is insisting on computerized records with due authentication by the bank official on each page. The allotment and planning sections of BDA are undertaking cross-verification of the bank statements and challans. The agency has also fixed accountability for the challans and bank scrolls at each level, the additional chief secretary (H&UD) wrote to the AG.

    BDA has also introduced an e-payment gateway for online payment to the customers. The financial management system of the agency is being restructured to bring in more safeguards, sources said.

    BDA probe into payment fraud - The Times of India
  • Software to deal with encroachments soon

    BHUBANESWAR: Worried over land mafia and influential people grabbing vast stretches of government land in prime locations in the city, the state government has woken up to assess the exact volume of land encroached and take steps to free the properties.

    At a recent meeting of city management group (CMG), consisting of officers of different government agencies and police, development commissioner Injeti Srinivas asked National Informatics Centre (NIC) to develop a software with GPS-tagged photography system to locate encroachments. At present, the state government has no data of encroachments on land, belonging to general administration department, Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and Odisha State Housing Board. Though the state government often put up signboards on its properties, warning action against trespassers, the move has failed to deter land sharks.

    "A strong reliable database on encroachments is lacking," said minutes of the meeting. BDA vice-chairman Vishal Dev said the government has engaged NIC to create the software for 'online registration of encroachment'. "We are maintaining files dealing with encroachment manually. Soon, such records will be maintained online for transparency and easy disposal," Dev said.

    The government has asked BDA and housing board to prevent encroachments on 'leftover' spaces near their housing schemes. "In many plotted schemes, narrow strips of land have been left out while developing housing colonies. These areas are more vulnerable to encroachment. Since the leftover land cannot be used for other purposes, it can be sold to nearby plot owners," the minutes said.

    At the meeting, the development commissioner instructed BDA and water resources department to remove encroachments on natural drainage channels in the city. Though the city has 10 natural water channels, almost all are being encroached. The government in 2006 had asked drainage division (Cuttack) to execute renovation of some drains under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), but the project is moving at snail's pace.

    On November 6, 2013, the state government evicted 'encroachment' on natural drainage channel 4 near Regional Plant Research Centre, popular as Ekamra Kanan, in Nayapalli.

    Software to deal with encroachments soon - The Times of India