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Landing in a soup inadvertently

Landing in a soup inadvertently
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A new political battleground is gradually getting readied in Telangana State. The gathering storm that was subdued for all of these years is likely to...

A new political battleground is gradually getting readied in Telangana State. The gathering storm that was subdued for all of these years is likely to explode into a major issue and pit the NDA government at the Centre and the TRS-led government in the State against one another.

It is common knowledge that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, whose soft corner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi is common knowledge, went overboard and left no opportunity to bracket his government alongside that of Modi, particularly by stating that like the divided and silenced national opposition, even in Telangana the opposition parties were yet to find an issue or scam to nail his government because ‘we are clean and have no blemishes.’

However, the situation is likely to witness dramatic changes, which, if pursued aggressively by the opposition, could unnerve the TRS think tank and put them on an agonising sticky-wicket. Suddenly, fingers are being pointed at his administration following media expose pertaining to a massive land scam that allegedly has the involvement of senior party leaders.

KCR launched a damage-control exercise by stating that the government had cancelled that particular land registration. “The registration was done clandestinely with the intention of procuring bank loans.

We have scrapped the sale deed, informed the banks and arrested top officials from Goldstone, Trinity and Suvishal Power,” he said, while asserting that the ACB would monitor activities of all the 142 sub-registrar offices. Equal swift was scrapping of the ‘Register Anywhere Scheme’, which had allegedly led to benami registrations.

“Around 20-25 percent of land registrations are benami deals. This needs to be addressed and stymied on a priority basis,” he admitted. Simultaneously, the state government withdrew the discretionary powers of the sub-registrars granted under 47A of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 with regard to stamp fees and also alienation of the land under ‘banned categories’, which was facilitated during the earlier Congress regime.

Even as it seemed like a semblance of order had been restored, a bolt from the blue has hit the government, which could leave a devastating trail. A land scam, purportedly involving family members of TRS Secretary-General K Keshav Rao has come to light in the process giving fresh ammunition to the opposition parties, which have been starved of issues to attack the government.

As more evidences of large-scale land grabbing and illegal sale of government land are being unearthed, the government, driven to the wall, is finding itself in a defensive position. Meanwhile Keshav Rao daughter has rediculed charges of land-grabbing It is interesting to note that the TRS during the agitation for separate Telangana had blamed the erstwhile government for having failed to protect the government land and promised that in the new state they would do everything to see that every inch of government land was protected and would be put to proper use for the larger benefit of the people but things now seem to be going awry.

It must be recalled that when Andhra Pradesh came into existence in 1956, the government had designated the urban and rural lands around Hyderabad and across the state into Inam, wakf, endowments, paigah and other types of lands. After Independence, new categories were added lands assigned to the landless poor and zarib lands (wetlands). These lands are banned from private registrations!

The lists of such government lands, whose registration are banned, were revised and distributed across all Sub Registrars offices in 2003 and 2007. The SROs claim that there is no gazette list after the formation of Telangana. A one-man commission, headed by retired IAS officer SK Sinha, was set up by the TRS government to investigate land grabbing cases in December 2014.

The Sinha report, submitted in December 2016, reportedly found the hand of bigwigs in alienating thousands of acres of government land in and around Hyderabad. However, the government shelved the report and has not acted upon the findings.

Way back in 2010, Hyderabad was jolted when the ACB and later the CBI unravelled the Emaar Villas scam that was a nexus between bigwigs of the Congress party and industry captains. The joint venture between APIIC (Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation) and Emaar Properties, Dubai, to develop an integrated project consisting of golf course, club house, boutique, hotel and township on 535 acres of land at Manikonda led to the arrest of an IAS officer under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

When this issue came up for debate in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 2010, the then chief minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy, commented, rather sarcastically, “If the government cannot protect its lands, then God alone can save the state.” Perhaps Telangana, seven years later, is still waiting for that God.

By V RAMU SARMA

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