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Massive land fraud unearthed in Thoothukudi villages

A massive case land fraud, in which an individual, allegedly with the assistance of government officials, cheated 140 people of nearly
1,300 acres of land in three villages in Thoothukudi district has been unearthed by the registration department in three villages in Thoothukudi district.

The Inspector-General of Registration has ordered an inquiry into the fraud perptrated by a person claiming to possess the powers of attorney of the villagers concerned, had sold their land to a businessman in Karnataka with the alleged connivance of officials at the Kadambur sub-registrar office.

The fraud came to light when Neethiraj, a resident of Saravanapuram, asked for an encumbrance certificate for pledging the land for loan at a local bank on June 9, 2009. Neethiraj was promptly told that his land no longer belonged to him. Alarmed, the villagers, one by one, applied for encumbrance certificates, and within a week, were shocked to find that their land had been sold using forging documents without their knowledge.

On June 19, the affected persons from Sillangulam, Saravanapuram and Paramanpatheri petitioned the district revenue officer demanding cancellation of the transactions and action against the individuals involved involved in the fraud. On June 23, the villagers, led by CPM farmers' association district president Kankaraj, gave a complaint to the district collector.

In their complaint, the villagers have said none of the original land owners' photos or identity proof had been given at the time of registering the power of attorney and that the fraud could not have taken place without the knowledge of the village administrative officer of Sillangulam and the sub-registrar of Kadambur.

All the forged documentation was done at the Kadambur sub-registrar office on August 26, 2008 and June 1, 2009, say officials of the registration department. In the first batch, 310 acres of land belonging to 52 villagers had been sold. In the second batch, documents of nearly a thousand acres owned by about 92 persons had been forged. The market rate of one acre is between 30 to 50 thousand and the farms cost Rs one lakh per acre in the villages.

"In the preliminary inquiry, we have found that the lands of some of the villagers had been sold without their knowledge. We have ordered a detailed enquiry,'' said a senior official at the department headquarters in Chennai. Admitting that the land scam could not have taken place without the connivance officials at the sub-registrar's office, the officer said some of the staff, including the then sub-registrar, would be suspended from service soon. The registration department would also ask the district collector to initiate criminal proceedings against the individuals involved in forgery and cheating, he emphasised.

"The authorities should ensure the cancellation of forged documentation and hand over the patta back to the original land owners," says S Kandasamy, a retired officer of the Indian Air Force, and one of the affected farmers.

Source: TOI


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