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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Edition 27: INTO THE LAND OF SHARKS

Even as the cases of land grabbing and cheating in land deals are on the rise in the city, there are ways you can help yourself from being duped. There is no better way than to be prepared to sail safe through the land sharks. A guide to what land scams are and how to avoid them...

ROHIT DATTA

Land grabbing, encroachments, reselling the same land over and over again is something we are all aware of. In a fast growing city like Pune where land prices have spiralled beyond imagination, rising incidents of land scams only give a shot in the arm to rumours that pune is fast becoming the next ‘land scam’ capital of India. Some recent cases in Pune points out to the modus operandi of gangs operating in a well planned and schematic manner. Connivance with the authorities unfortunately seems to be just a simple part of the heist.



A precious piece of land with the owner living out of station and nobody to take care of is usually identified as a potential target. Fake power of attorneys along with fake death certificates are prepared in connivance with the authorities concerned. A death certificate of the original owner along with a fake power of attorney executed by a fake son of the original owner who testifies as actually being the owner’s son helps the gangsters to get a basic grip on the targetted land. The fake son or the dummy is paid off and immediately sent underground. The kingpin then transfers the land to one of his highly trusted aides. A sale deed is then prepared. Cheques and bank accounts that don’t even exist are shown to be issued from the trusted aide’s account to the account of the kingpin, thus transferring the land from a fake power of attorney holder to a fake buyer from the same gang.This process could lead to the name of the original owner being deleted from the 7/12 extracts and a new buyer’s name being added. The next phase involves hunting out for unsuspecting victims who just check the documents which look authentic who eventually end up buying the land at a throwaway price thinking that the owner is desperately in need of money and would settle for anything at this point of time. Lightning strikes the victim only when the scam is unearthed and many arrested.



Most of the times the kingpin feigns ignorance and states that he himself has been duped by a dummy posing as the son of the real owner. High profile contacts and the money generated from the heist ensures that the kingpin remains untouchable. Splinter groups often emerge from the parent gang targetting new victims using the same modus operandi usually on the same land but different dummies. The land then esembles a malignant cancer affected organ in the body which spreads to other organs of the body as well. Normally a power of attorney executed outsideMaharashtra needs to be adjudicated here and adjudication charges apply but even these procedures are by-passed again with the help of authorities. Sometimes land gifted to farmers by the state which cannot be sold is brazenly sold by owners by taking advances from more than one person.



Landowners sometimes give power of attorneys to more than one person after taking a sizeable amount from all concerned and sometimes are even ready to serve a year or two in jail in lieu of the money earned. More aggresive and stronger gangs choose to directly intimidate the land owner into giving up his land at a meagre price. Lands are then forcibly occupied and the rest depends upon the grit and determination of the owner wherein he usually gets justice if he persists. Then comes another category of crooks known as the ‘Semifraud’ category where usually the developer himself unknowingly buys land from farmers either without any approach road any approach r oad or encroached upon by other farmers for agricultural purposes. All the papers pertaining to the land normally are crystal clear.The modus operandi here involves showing an adjoining plot to the victim and later the seller acts innocent about the status of the plot.



As all the papers are legal and clear it is difficult to take action and the onus lies on the buyer to go through a lenghty procedure of applying for a government survey and get his land back in a peaceful manner. In such cases the buyer normally settles for whichever plot he gets in the end. Sellers sometimes sell a plot knowing very well that their plot has

a reservation on it or it is going to be acquired for road widening purposes according to the new DP.



Equality Before Lawlessness

Not only gullible farmers are losing out to ruthless land grabbers, the rich and famous are also finding themselves among the victim. Police and officials of the district collectorate

admit to an increase in the number of cases where land developers or builders have forged land documents, including the crucial 7/12 extracts, sale deeds and forged power of attorneys. “Initially, the complainants were mostly farmers, but this is no longer so,” said a senior police inspector.



Observers said that with increased industrial activity in Pune’s fringe areas and shortage of land in the city limits, vast tracts of land are being grabbed by unscrupulous land developers and builders. A citybased advocate had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the state government for failing to curb illegal land dealing and proliferation

of land mafia in Pune.



Dinesh Gonjare filed the PIL in the Bombay high court saying that land mafia in Pune are holding all to ransom. They are not only responsible for unprecedented hike in the

real estate prices, but also for the situation citizens are trapped in. The PIL sought that the HC issue an appropriate writ, order or direction under Article 226 of the Constitution directing the respondents in pursuance of the principles of transparency and also in invocation of the spirit of the RTI, or reply on sworn affidavits to the “serious charges” levelled

against them.



The nexus between land mafia and administrators was duly noted and commented upon by the Bombay High Court just last month. Dealing with a land-mafia case, the High Court came down hard on two Pune police officers, saying they had brought shame to the 'vardi' (uniform). The court issued show cause notice to the two officers of Shivajinagar police station -- Inspector Rahul Yewale and PSI Sandip Ghorpade-- as to why they should not be made co-accused in the case. According to the petition filed by Pune-based documentary-maker Poornima Prabhu, some 50 goons ransacked her house in Shivajinagar area on December 29, 2008. Her brother, Rajiv Prabhu, was badly beaten up and had to be hospitalised. The goons had been allegedly sent by Congress corporator Deepak Mankar and his brother Shivaji in an attempt to evict them from the rented premises they live in.

The police not only refused to entertain the complaint, but filed another false case on Rajeev for assault. A nother case, which attracted everybody’s attention and which highlighted the seriousness of the issue was murder of Suresh Shetty. Right To Information activist Satish Shetty (38), who had been raking up several public issues about the realtors, specially those in the Maval area, was attacked with swords by masked men, while he was on his morning walk around 7.15 am. Shetty died on the spot.



According to RTI activist Maruti Bhapkar, who is active in Pimpari-Chinchwad area, and a close aide of Shetty, "Shetty had filed many of RTI applications which exposed irregularities in land acquisition by Sable-Waghire company and IRB Builders and promoters. One such exposure led to the suspension of the deputy land registrar in the area." Shetty and his colleagues exposed the land scam near Lonavla. Some farmers gave information to Shetty about illegal land dealings in Taje and Pimpawadi villages. Shetty obtained information under RTI. It emerged that IRB had grabbed 2,800 acres of land in the villages, which belonged to the government, and is in the vicinity of the Expressway. The investigation in the case ran for many days. After Pune police was unable to apprehend the culprit, the case was handed over to Central Bureau of Investigation since then.



WHAT TO DO WHEN IN DOUBT

• Hire the services of a smart lawyer even if he seems expensive.

• Screen the documents yourself down to the last detail.

• Insist on seeing the survey and tiffin records to verify

• the details of the plot.

• Check the DP plan for any road marking or reservations

• etc.

• Insist on seeing the approach road and later verifying it

• by the survey records.

• Ask the seller to fence the plot at least temporarily to

• check if any boundary row exists.

• Do not pay the full amount until your name appears on

• the latest 7/12 extracts.

• Be sure that you can prove yourself to be a farmer before

• buying any agricultural land.

• The ULCA still restricts any individuals from buying

• more than 50 acres again classified into Bagayat (Garden lands

• with fertile soil) and Jirayat (Land for agricultural purpose with

• less fertile soil

• If you already possess a plot do not forget to pay your

• annual nominal land tax to the grampanchayat as that adds to

• your ownership evidence.

• Build a small room on your plot to house a gaurd.

• Put a board on your premises to warn prospective victims

• against buying your property.

• If threatened, do not hesitate to approach authorities.

CHECK RECORDS ONLINE

At Pune district, the Record of Rights (RoR) data from all the 14 tahsils is entered in Land Management Information System) LMIS system and computerised extract of 7/12 is being issued from tahsil offices. 7/12 extracts and property cards are availble on http://mahabhulekh.mumbai.nic.in for viewing purpose.

PCIS ( Property Card Information System)

Land Records Computerisation Project (LRC) has been jointly implemented by Software Development Unit (SDU), NIC, Pune and Office of the Settlement Commissioner, Land Records in Maharashtra State. SDU, Pune has developed Property Card Information System.This software was basically used for data entry of Property Cards in Urban areas.At Pune district, LINPCIS is being used at all the three city survey offices and online mutations are also being taken on the property cards. It is also used all TILR offices for distribution of property cards.

SHOCKING PROPORTIONS

October 26, 2007 saw the unraveling of a land scam of shocking proportions, when city-based builder Pradeep Runwal of Amrut Runwal Multi-Housin Private Limited was arrested.

He had forged the power of attorney of around 108 acres of land in the name of 377 farmers in Manjri, some of whom were dead, to avail of a loan of Rs 450 crore, Rs 340 crore of

which was sanctioned by Deutsche Bank.



"Runwal had forged the power of attorney of many plots in Manjri as fake proof of ownership and had procured a part of the loan. However, after receiving a portion of the loan

money, he made the mistake of buying back the same land he had shown as security for the loan -- the documents bore different signatures. This led to his arrest for forgery and cheating," said former Anti-Extortion Cell chief Bhanupratap Barge, who had cracked the Manjri scam.



PEOPLE SPEAK

Generally, land purchase or any such deal is done once in a lifetime for most of the people. Hence utmost care should be taken so that one is not duped by the conmen. One gets to reas so much about the murky deals, that fear of being cheated is the first thing that comes to mind.

Amol Khamkar, Marketing Professional

There is not doubt that land mafia is a big problem in Pune. The builder lobby, politicians, police all are included in it. But then, some people also help them for money or other benefits. Unless you stop such people from helping, how can you such practices?

Gautam Kamble, Contractor

The police or government official do not help the poor people when they want help. Also, the people who need to know these details are not aware of the facilities like online checking of land records. The absence of literacy also is a big hinderence.

Naresh Shinde, Worker

1 comment:

  1. दादा कोंडके प्रतिष्ठानच्या जागेत अतिक्रमणाचा आरोप



    पुणे : खडकवासला येथील शाहीर दादा कोंडके प्रतिष्ठान ट्रस्टच्या सुमारे नव्वद एकर जागेवर माजी उपमहापौर दीपक मानकर यांनी अतिक्रमण करण्याचा प्रयत्न केला असून, दादांच्या बंगल्याची तोडफोड व समाधीचे नुकसान केल्याचा आरोप ट्रस्टचे उपाध्यक्ष हृदयनाथ कडू-देशमुख यांनी केला आहे. याप्रकरणी मानकर यांच्याविरोधात हवेली पोलीस ठाण्यात तक्रार अर्ज दाखल आहे.
    ही ९0 एकर जागा १७ वर्षांपासून ट्रस्टच्या ताब्यात आहे. कोंडके यांच्या मृत्युपत्रानुसार ही जागा विकायची नाही, अशी अट घालण्यात आलेली आहे, जागा विकली नसतानाही मानकर यांनी या जागेवर अतिक्रमण करण्याचा प्रयत्न केल्याचे ट्रस्टने म्हटले आहे. (प्रतिनिधी)

    प्रतिष्ठानच्या वतीने देण्यात आलेला तक्रार अर्ज हवेली पोलीस ठाण्यामध्ये प्राप्त झालेला आहे. विधी सल्लागाराचे मत घेऊन पुढील कायदेशीर कारवाई केली जाईल. - दिलीप बोंद्रे (पोलीस निरीक्षक, हवेली पोलीस ठाणे)

    ReplyDelete

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