Land Scam
Land Scam
Bhubaneswar: The administration at Revenue Department, Govt. of Odisha, has really gone to a sorry state. This is evident from the case of Athagarh Tehsildar, Mr. Biswajit Mohapatra, who continued to serve the office even after being suspended on a land scam.

The State of Affairs at Odisha Government Revenue Department, where an Officer enjoys office even after being suspended.

The higher authorities at the department took at least 5 days to realize that the suspension order could not reach Mr. Mohapatra’s office at appropriate time. Further, the administration at the Dept. has gone to such a bad state that the team carrying the suspension letter could not hand it over to the Tehsildar as he suddenly gone untraced. Ultimately, the team had to affix the order as ‘latka’ (an order or summon affixed on the front door of a person when he absconds or his family refuses to receive the same) at the Tehsil office.

Department of Revenue and Disaster Mitigation, Govt. of Odisha, released an official order, number 16/R (CS), dated 4 January 2012, pronouncing the suspension of Athagarh Tehsildar Mr. Biswajit Mohapatra for allegedly allowing 5 acres of Government land to an individual in Bhubaneswar periphery when he was the Tehsildar at Jatni. As per sources, the order was faxed to the Collector’s office, Cuttack, on the same day, and it was supposed to be served to the erring officer immediately. But no such action was initiated by the Collector’s office at Cuttack. As a result, Mr. Mohapatra continued to serve office as the Tehsildar Athagarh even after 4th January.

It is further understood that, finally after 5 days of signing of the order the top officials at Revenue Dept. became aware of the humanly(!) delay in the execution of the same and they did not appreciate the action in the part of Cuttack Collector. So on 9 th of January, again the order was faxed to the Collector of Cuttack and it was advised to the senior officers to serve the same without further delay. Upon such instructions from the top, the suspension order was forwarded to Sub-Collector Athagarh on the same date but the Dept. could not succeed to serve the letter to the officer, i.e. Tehsildar of Athagarh.

It was a shame for the Dept. that the suspension order was affixed to the office of the Tehsildar Athagarh as ‘latka’ since the said office was not traceable by the Dept. officials. In this game of hide and seek the erring officer continued to enjoy office for at least 5 days. Not only that, Mr. Mohapatra also got the opportunity to file a case at State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) to put a stay on the suspension order.

The whole story looks like a riddle though it is very interesting. Mr. Biswajit Mohapatra, was punished by the Dept. for allegedly allowing a lease to one late Mr. Abhay Patnaik when he (Mr. Mohapatra) was the Tehsildar of Jatni. This particular case was brought to light, last year, when the Dept. was inquiring into a land scam in the periphery of Bhubaneswar.

The genesis of the case takes one to the year 1980. That Mr. Abhay Patnaik had applied for a lease of 5 acres of land at Ogalapada village area, in the periphery of Bhubaneswar, vide WLL (waste land lease) case number 170 in the year 1980. He was allowed the lease by an order dated 15 September 1982. However, later while reviewing the Dept. came to a conclusion that the lease was not allowed as per official guidelines. The then Commissioner of Consolidation, Mr. Ramesh Chandra Mishra Committee, gave the report to Govt. clearly saying that Mr. Abhay Patnaik was not eligible to get the said lease.

Basing on the report of Ramesh Chandra Mishra Committee, the then Addl. Tehsildar of Jatni cancelled the lease in the name of Mr. Abhay Patnaik, vide order dated 10 March 2000, and transferred the land to Govt. records. But the case did not stop here. Mr. Abhay Patnaik filed a case in Odisha High Court and in 2001 praying to get back the same. Upon hearing the case the Court directed the petitioner to appear before Addl. Tehsildar Jatni in a stipulated time period.

But the petitioner, for whatsoever reason, did not appear before the Addl. Tehsildar, Jatni in the date instructed by the High Court. Later, in 2004, almost after 3 years of court direction, the petitioner appeared before the Mr. Biswajit Mohapatra, the then Tehsildar Jatni and upon hearing the case Mr. Mohapatra allowed the 5 acres of land in the name of the petitioner Mr. Abhay Patnaik. And now, in 2011, the Govt. found that it was not done as per law and thus suspended Mr. Mohapatra.

The crux of the story demonstrates that when a senior official of the Dept. like a Commissioner, describes an act as ‘illegal’ and says ‘No’ the case, a Tehsildar of the same Dept. can legalize the matter and happily say ‘Yes’. Again after some years, the Dept. realizes that the officer on chair was wrong. So the game of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘yes’ and ‘no’ continues in the floor of the Dept. for year after year. And that is how the Revenue Dept. of Govt. of Odisha running and protecting the public property.

Odisha360 has further traced that Mr. Abhay Patnaik had signed a registered power of attorney vide number 1513, dated 05 August 1998, in the name of Eden Construction and Builders Orissa Pvt. Ltd. represented by Mr. Purnachandra Nayak for the whole 5 acres of land. Again Mr. Patnaik has sold one acre of land in the name of Dillip Kumar Sangram Singh, vide sale deed number 86 dated 16 August 2005. He had also sold two areas of land in the name of Mr. Basant Kumar Mohapatra vide sale deed number 3554 dated 04 April 2006 and another two acres to Mrs. Sujata Satpathy vide sale deed number 2087 dated 16 August 2005.

Thus now it is a million dollar question that how the Dept. shall practically realize the 5 acres of land to the Govt. records. On the other hand, land scam has become a common issue in the state capital and it is again and again discussed that Govt. officials are in hand in gloves with land grabbers. This is the high time for the Dept. to realize the same and initiate appropriate and timely action against the erring officers and protect the public property.