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Time for action on unused land

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 3: The state government has taken steps to retrieve unused land that was allotted to various industrial houses, institutions and other individuals to set up projects.

The government has made the move after the state cabinet decided on Friday that it would take back the land leased out to industries if it remained unused for more than three years.

However, the government move to take back the unused leased land has put the panchayati raj minister Kalpataru Das and deputy government chief whip Sanjay Dasburma in a tight spot. They are both being accused of being in possession of land without taking the initiative to use it.

The revenue department has asked the Industrial Development Corporation (Idco) to submit details about the quantum of land it has allotted to various industrial houses across the state for setting up industries and other projects.

Revenue minister Surjya Narayan Patro said: “Only in the three districts — Khurda, Cuttack, Puri and Jajpur — land worth Rs 1 lakh crore has been distributed to various promoters. We will check the records whether the land given for a specific purpose has been utilised or not.”

To go ahead with the process of retrieving the land, the government will verify records leading to the leasing out of land to various people at Chandaka Industrial Estate area, on the outskirts of the city. “We have come to know that nearly 709 acres have been lying unused for years together. Though people have taken possession of the land, they have not spent a single paisa to develop the project. We will issue a notice to show cause why their land can’t be taken back,” said an official.

To take back the land, the local tehsildar has to issue a notice to the land allottee concerned. Besides the Chandaka Industrial areas, the state government has also allotted land and sheds to the people at the Mancheswar Industrial Estate. Besides these two areas, the government has already allocated plots in almost all the districts. One acre of land at Chandaka now costs Rs 5 crore.

The state government is also planning to bring an amendment to the laws it make it difficult for people to approach the court in case the government takes the land back from them.

Revenue minister Patro admitted that a few people had even sold out land they had taken from the government for a specific purpose. “There are reports of land being sold. A few people have even constructed apartments on it. We will certainly inquire into it,” said an official.

After the government took steps to retrieve the land, two leaders of the ruling party, panchayati raj minister Kalpataru Das and deputy government chief whip Sanjay Dasburma have come under the Opposition scanner.

Odisha Jan Morcha founder and former BJD leader Pyari Mohan Mohapatra pointed an accusing finger at Das and Dasburma stating that though they had taken the land from Idco, they had not used it so far. “The government should take back the land from them,” said Mohapatra.

Das said: “The allegations of Mohapatra were politically motivated. I was a trustee of one Gokarneswar Charitable Trust. A plot measuring one acre and 100 decimal was allotted in favour of the said Trust in Chandaka Industrial Estate for establishment of a professional educational institution. The building has been constructed on the said plot and an AICTE-approved MBA institute is running there. The trust has not violated either the condition of allotment or kept the land vacant.”

Dasburma said: “Whatever decision Idco takes, I will abide by it.”