LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Land Sharks on Prowl
Although there is nothing illegal about it, land sharks close to top-notch politicians of the country are busy engaged in grabbing revenue land from Islanders for a pittance, and it is unfortunate that the local settlers are in deep slumber where they are losing their land on a regular basis on one pretext or the other. Lack of any Regulations to check alienation of land is going to change the face of the
Islands in no time, if the
trend continues unabated.
By Zubair Ahmed
Alienation of land from the local population is not just an ethical issue. It needs serious attention from the policymakers in the wake of massive land grab going on from North Andaman to South Andaman.
Highly placed sources reveal that a businessmen-duo from the capital has been on the prowl since 2006 for prime revenue land close to pristine beaches starting from Diglipur to Hutbay in Little Andaman. It is learnt that this land mafia, based in the national Capital has already bought about 300 acres of revenue land belonging to poor and vulnerable Islanders.
The modus-operandi is very simple. Tired with the bidding and tender process on revenue sharing and long-term lease on fixed rental by the ANI Admn, no big hotel chains are interested in investing in the Islands. The whole issue is the cumbersome process of the ANI Admn with bottlenecks at every turn. Speaking to LOA, a senior official in the ANI Admn said that the negative approach of the bureaucrats, inviting them to invest in the Islands on one hand and at the same time washing off their hands from any kind of assistance in getting the necessary clearances have been discouraging the investors to come to the Islands.
However, the land mafia close to top politicians with high connections has been successful in circumventing the whole process and grabbing revenue land from the Islanders. The duo has found an easy way out to help the hotel chains to come to the
Islands. With prime property close to the beaches in
their possession, they are today in a position to negotiate with big and famous
hotel chains to come and buy land from them.
And, when the strings are attached to the Capital, all processes are eased for them to get commercialization of the land, they have purchased. When poor Islanders run helter-skelter to get their 200 sq mtrs land commercialized, these big fishes need not go through any burdensome process. They get red carpet welcome when a phone call from the Capital reaches the power corridors of the
The commercial conversion of land has been a big issue for the Islanders for a long time. The Andaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry had been vigorously pursuing the matter since tsunami. But, who cares for the
Islands or the Islanders. It is
alleged that the restriction on commercialization of land was put in place to
put the brakes on this businessman-duo and force them to negotiate at the
highest level for allowing the commercialization. The restriction on
commercialization of land was lifted as soon as this mafia, who also have close
links to the leading dynastic families in Delhi
and in Punjab, could manage it for their own
advantage. However, the local industry is happy that it has been a windfall for
them, not realizing the fact that the remote control of all the affairs of the
Islands lie somewhere in
and its vicinity. Perhaps the next time a Chief Minister visits Port Blair the
local public will be quicker to spot the hidden agenda. Delhi
The ongoing land grab in the
Islands by top politicians of the country through
different sources have started to raise many eyebrows recently. From Ross and Smith
in Diglipur to Bada Balu in Chidiyatapu and Hutbay, more than 300 acres of
prime revenue land owned by local population have been purchased by land mafia
from the Capital.
another big fish has been engaged in purchasing land from the settlers and when
one farmer resisted, he had lured the settler by raising the price to about Rs
50 lakhs for 5 acres of land. Rutland
Debnath Biswas and Madhavi Biswas, both in their early sixties could not even imagine a life away from their land.
"They offered us Twenty Lakhs first" says Debnath Biswas, "then they increased it upto fifty lakhs. We have been living in this land and making our living for the last forty years. Why should we leave this place? We gave them a clear NO. Then they tried to threaten us by saying that all the land surrounding us has been purchased by them and that we will not be able even to go out of our house. "
"If they block our way we will cut two more trees and make two more dinghies and will go in our own way" interjects Madhavi.
"What can we do with the fifty lakh that they give us? If you go to a hotel and eat a Biriyani, hundred Rupees is lost. How does it get replenished?" the rustic village logic of Biswas is difficult to be countered with modern economic jargons.
About 60 acres of land has been already grabbed in
It is learnt from high sources that a DRDO project is also on the anvil in the Rutland Island, and the realtor from the Capital is amassing land
for resale bonanza. Apart from that it is some reputed hotel chains have also started
showing interest in such lands.
Unfortunately, the Islanders are yet to learnt a lesson from
where the local settlers today have little stake in their own place with many
of them selling their land to resorts, but at least for a premium. The
situation is worse today with some of them turning landless and the money spent
on frivolous things. Havelock
States like Himachal Pradesh and
West Bengal have Regulations which puts restriction on
alienation of land. The West Bengal Alienation of Land (Regulation) Act, 1960
has provisions like restrictions on alienation, if the area proposed exceeds
such limits as may be prescribed having regard to the availability of land in
the locality for the use of the people of the locality or the proposed
alienation is in the opinion of the State Govt prejudicial to the public
"When there is restriction in tribal areas, why can't we have such a regulation for non-tribal areas too?" asks an old inhabitant. "If any project wants to come up, like in tribal area, the Islander can be made a stakeholder in the project," he said.
Protective laws can help the non-tribals too like the Himachal Pradesh Transfer of Land Act prevents alienation from land protection to the tribal population. Under this Act, the Tribals cannot sell, mortgage or lease out their land to non-tribals without prior permission. In the
Islands, although we need to seek
permission for sale of land, it should not be given to non-Islanders. "Its
not going to hamper any project or developmental activities, as project can
come up in any land, but the ownership of the land will remain with the
Islanders which gives them a stake in the project.
It's high time the politicians, civil society organisations and local associations come together and demand for a Regulation to put restrictions on alienation of local land or land sharks with high connections has already spread their tentacles through the