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Illegal land transfer puts Government on the alert

By R. Ilangovan

SALEM, NOV. 12. Perturbed at the massive tampering with patta documents, which has led to illegal transfer of about 2000 acres of poromboke land to individuals in Salem, the Government has sought a report from the administration in other districts. This is to find out whether any similar illegal act has taken place elsewhere in the State.

The government decision follows reports of transfer by a few officials of pattas in the names of individuals, of a large chunk of prime land valued at a few crores in Salem district.

The police have already arrested four village administrative officers (VAOs) and are searching for another for their alleged involvement in the illegal transaction.

Two other employees, including a surveyor, have been placed under suspension.

Parallel probe

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that the administration had shortlisted 15 other VAOs, who were suspected of having been involved in the scam. A parallel enquiry was ordered into "supplementary roles'' played by a revenue divisional officer (RDO) and a tahsildar.

The operation has led to the recovery of about 800 acres from the "illegal occupiers'' in the Attur, Gengavali and Yercaud blocks.

It includes about 245 acres at Unnathur and 400 acres at Pattuthurai in the Attur block.

Almost the entire poromboke land in nine villages in the Attur block, classified as the "worst-affected,'' has been illegally transferred. The value of the redeemed land is estimated at Rs. 1.2 crores.

Banks informed

The investigation has also exposed illegal transfers of large acreage in 40 other villages including nine tribal habitations in the Attur and Yercaud blocks. Many of these "illegal occupiers'' are said to be planters who have pledged the pattas to secure bank loans. "This scandal needs a separate probe. We have alerted the banks," say the sources.

The largescale illegal transfer of poromboke land came to light when a team of officials under the guidance of the District Revenue Officer, T. P. Rajesh, took up computerisation of records two years ago. All details of documents, deeds and assignments including patta transfers and poromboke land were fed into the computer.

The verification of `pattas' has led to the exposure.

Modus operandi

The modus operandi of the guilty is said to be simple. The suspected VAOs assigned poromboke land to individuals after issuing pattas by making wrong entries in village records. Thus about 2,000 acres (including revenue and forest land) meant for people's welfare was usurped.

"We have informed the Government with documentary evidence. Based on their suggestions, we are pursuing the matter legally. The exercise will continue until we identify all illegal transfers and pin down the officials involved in the scam," said Mr. Rajesh.

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