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Crime branch to probe into land scam

The state government today ordered probe by the Crime branch into alleged encroachment of 76 acres land at Chandaka forest area near Gangapatna on the city’s outskirts.

The government’s directive has come a week after Opposition parties demanded a probe into the land scam. The investigation was ordered based on reports submitted by the Khurda collector and tahsildar. The Crime branch has been asked to complete its probe within two months.

Besides, the state revenue department has been asked to suspend all the officials- tahsildar, additional tahsildar, revenue inspector and sub-registrar involved in the irregularities. The department will take disciplinary action and will register criminal cases against them as per the instruction by the government.

The forest and environment department will take action against the company and individuals responsible for construction of a road inside the forest area by registering police complaints against them. Meanwhile, the reports submitted by the Khurda collector showed there was an attempt by the leaseholder to sell 46 acres land whose lease validity expired long ago. The revenue department has been asked to bring back the land title under its name and has been empowered to cancel the lease validity of remaining 35 acres land if any violation of the lease agreement is found.

Government records show the controversial land is held by a trust, which is managed by the family members of senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and the party’s leader in Rajya Sabha Kalpataru Das. However, Pranab Balabantray, son of Kalpataru Das and a ruling party MLA, has already admitted that he had sold the land to another person a couple of years back and the name of the real owner could be seen on the record after the process of mutation is complete. The matter was highlighted by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Bijay Mohapatra earlier this month and later, the party had demanded a probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the irregularities. The decision to hand over allegations into state police is an attempt to cover up the real culprits, said the state unit of BJP.

“Why is the government shying away from taking action against the person who was a senior minister during the previous regime of Naveen Patnaik and is currently a Member of Parliament. The government must clarify whether the crime branch investigation is to hush up the matter or not,” said Mohapatra.

The Congress said crime branch probe will actually save the image of party. “The government ca not dare to order a CBI probe into the matter and hence, ordered a crime branch probe to protect the real culprits behind it. We do not think the investigation will unearth the truth,” said Narasinha Mishra, leader of Opposition and Congress leader.

To check further misuse and encroachment of government land, the state government has instructed the revenue department to formulate an effective bill within one month to be placed before the state Cabinet.

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