Even dry lakebeds are grabbed in IT capital

By V.S. Karnic, IANS

Bangalore : Land grabbing has reached such scandalous proportions in India's IT capital that a dry lakebed was pledged to a bank to raise a loan of Rs.50 million. Since the person defaulted on loan repayment, the bank auctioned the lakebed and raised Rs.76 million!

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This startling fraud is one of over 30 cases of unauthorised occupation of government land being probed by a committee of Karnataka lawmakers from both houses of the state legislature.

"Encroachment has been on for several years and a strong nexus of land developers, bureaucrats and politicians is suspected to be operating," Vatal Nagaraj, a member of the panel, told IANS.

The committee estimates that land worth billions of rupees has been appropriated by realtors and the land mafia.

The committee has been set up to unearth the extent of land-grab in Bangalore and suggest measures to the government to recover the land if it is still vacant or realise money through penalties.

Of the 30 cases that have come to light, at least half a dozen involve dry lakebeds.

In the above instance, the committee found that more than 15 acres of the lakebed in Byrasandra in central Bangalore had been encroached by a realtor.

The realtor fabricated documents to show possession of the area and on that basis took a loan of Rs.50 million from Indian Overseas Bank's (IOB) branch in Jayanagar in south Bangalore.

The lakebed had been given by the state government in 1986 to the forest department to develop a tree park. The encroachment and IOB's auctioning of the land to recover its loan amount took place sometime later. Efforts are now on to trace the person or the entity that bought the land in the auction.

These details were given to reporters by A.T. Ramaswamy, member of the state legislative assembly and chairman of the committee.

Nagaraj said "We are finalising the report on our findings and will submit it to the government soon. The report will contain suggestions to the government on measures to be taken to recover encroached land."

The committee has already submitted one report to the government and will be preparing another one soon. "This will show which department has shirked its duty in protecting government land from encroachment," Nagaraj said.

The committee during its inspection of several areas in the city found that several multi-storeyed residential and commercial complexes have come up on encroached lands in and around Airport Road. One such commercial complex has been rented out to IBM, the committee learnt.