Chandrapura industrial township, 32km from Bokaro, has been witnessing a realty scam worth several crores unfold over the last three years wherein six acres of government land, claimed as a royal gift, have been sold off to a chain of buyers allegedly in connivance with local leaders and bureaucrats.
Six acres near Pahadi Mandir in Ratari village (khata No. 126, plot No. 838) were grabbed in 2009 by a cartel of the powerful Mahtha clan who produced forged papers dated 1932, claiming the land was a gift from the king of Ramgarh to their ancestors.
Then, matters rolled fast. The Mahthas — Upendra Mahtha claimed three acres, others like Kameshwar Mahtha, R.K. Mahtha took the rest, all parroting the “royal gift” line — started selling off the land to the first lot of buyers for a song — Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 a decimal.
Then, the first lot of buyers sold the plots to others at much higher rates. At present, rates vary between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 per decimal. A hillock has been openly flattened. Dozens of residential houses are coming up.
What is interesting is that the illegal activity and the protests against it have been going on almost in sync.
Local leaders such as Rameshwar Mahto and Mohammad Shamshad brought the matter to the notice of then Bermo BDO (since then transferred). According to letter No. 235 sent on April 20, 2010, by the then BDO to Chas sub-registrar Ujjwal Minz, several persons were buying government land illegally at Ratari and the sub-registrar was asked to stop this activity.
But buying and selling continued unabated. Even after this government notification and repeated reminders, all six acres were divided into smaller decimal plots and registered across different dates in 2011 at the Chas sub-registrar’s office.
The buck stopped at mutation, but the sellers and buyers did not care.
On August 25, 2012, senior CPI leader Aftab Alam sent a letter to Bokaro DC Sunil Kumar with details of all plots, names of buyers and sellers.
Dumri MLA Jagannath Mahto, who has raised the issue before revenue minister Mathura Prasad Mahto, told The Telegraph that the land mafia with the cooperation of “many people” had got registration of government land done. “It is a big government land scam,” he confirmed.
Villagers and local leaders such as Alam and Phulchand Mahto also wrote to North Chotanagpur commissioner Nitin Kulkarni who directed Bokaro DC Sunil Kumar to start a probe. DC Kumar told The Telegraph that he had ordered an inquiry.
Bermo SDO Anita Sahay admitted to The Telegraph that illegal constructions “have been done on government land and that after verification, Chandrapura BDO Rajesh Sah has been asked to submit details of those who bought the land and carry out action against them”.
She added that they had asked all landholders to submit documents with records.
“If not submitted within two weeks, the land will be commandeered and action taken against plot holders, construction or no construction. I am surprised how plots were registered,” said SDO Sahay.
“In 2011, when I was in charge of the Chas sub-registrar’s office for two days, Upendra Mahtha offered me a bribe to settle the matter. To buy time, I said I would first inspect the land,” a senior bureaucrat alleged, adding the Mahthas were extremely influential.
“Illegal construction is done on Sundays and other holidays. No one protests openly as people know that local strongmen of JMM, BJP, Congress and Ajsu are backing this,” said a resident not wishing to be named.
That makes sense. After registration, when land buyers went for mutation and Chandrapura BDO Rajesh Sah —transferred to Simdega two days ago — rejected it on technical grounds, it did not stop any transaction or construction.