Families ‘exchange’ land,papers show ‘sale’,officials pocket money

Families that already owned land picked for scheme meant for landless

Written by Santosh Singh | Atri,gaya | Published: July 17, 2012 3:23:35 am

In perhaps the most blatant violation of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s flagship Mahadalit Vikas Yojana,officials in Atri block pocketed the amount allotted under the scheme to buy plots,for distribution to landless Mahadalit families,by simply choosing families that already owned land,and then showing a “purchase” through an “exchange” of plots.

With the government setting aside Rs 20,000 for each three-decimal plot to be given to landless Mahadalit families,and most of the 70 beneficiaries picked in Bansi Bigaha village already land owners,the racket is believed to be worth Rs 14 lakh. While Bansi Bigaha earlier fell under the Atri block,it now falls under Mohda block.

The Mahadalit Vikas Yojana was started by the Bihar government in 2009-10. Under the scheme,three decimals or 1,306.08 sq ft of land was to be given to each of the 2.18 lakh landless families belonging to 21 Scheduled Castes identified as Mahadalit in the state. Following a series of reports by The Indian Express last month on how officials had exploited the scheme for own benefit,Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ordered fresh survey for the entire state to prepare a new list of landless Mahadalits. Raniganj (Araria) Circle Officer Ramvilas Jha was earlier suspended while allotments made in Islampur block administration were suspended.

Documents with The Indian Express show that in the case of Atri block,then circle officer Prabhat Kumar Jha — who is now the district land acquisition officer at Gaya — impressed upon 10 land-owning Scheduled Caste village farmers to “sell” their plots at the government ceiling of Rs 20,000 for three decimals. Measuring 210 decimals in all,the plots were registered in August 2010.

However,in reality,the land deeds exchanged hands within the 10 families. The villagers,who claim not to have received any money despite government records showing “purchase”,were reportedly convinced by officials and middlemen to agree to the exchange on the promise of getting half the money as well as Indira Awas Yojana benefits.

Mohda Circle Office papers show that the villagers swapped and cross-swapped plots in such a way that it does not look like exchange of land for land.

Then Circle Officer Prabhat Kumar Jha,however,claimed “every payment was made through cheques”. Asked how land was distributed among “land owners” in the first place,Jha said: “It is a matter of great surprise and I need to check records.” Admitting “huge embarrassment”,he added: “I have gone by the survey list of landless Mahadalits to allot land. I also remember having made payment to all land owners.”

Villagers,however,denied this. They said that while cheques of Rs 20,000 had been shown to them,the money never came into their accounts. They were taken to a bank and made to put thumb impression on some papers,they claimed. The villagers also alleged that the government had not handed over papers to any of the 70 beneficiaries.

Mohda CO Yogesh Mishra admitted being aware of the “discrepancies”. “I have prepared a report as well,” he said. On why allotments had not been cancelled even after three years of the racket having surfaced,Mishra said: “Appropriate action will be taken soon.”

Some examples of Bansi Bigaha village’s land swap:

* Basanti Devi: Wife of the late Ranjan Manjhi,she is shown on paper to have sold 24 decimals to the government. The land was allotted to eight fellow villagers,among them Ajay and Nande Manji,sons of fellow villager Chandsur Manjhi,who had also “sold” 12 decimals to the government. One of the beneficiaries to have received Chandsur’s land was Ramphal Manjhi,the son of Basanti Devi. Interestingly,Ramphal is the government-appointed ‘Vikas Mitra’,whose job is to coordinate with the government and point out irregularities in any scheme meant for Mahadalits. Another of Basanti’s sons,Subodh Manjhi,was among beneficiaries on another plot.

* Sudam Devi: Wife of Sriram Manjhi,she “sold” 21 decimals to the government. Her four sons — Shaukin Manjhi,Lalan Manjhi,Awdhesh Manjhi and Manoj Manjhi — got three decimals each as “beneficiaries” of land sold to the government by fellow villager Feku Manjhi. Feku’s own son Nagina Manjhi was one of the beneficiaries on plot sold by Sudam Devi. Said Sudam Devi’s son Shaukin Manjhi: “We were fooled by the Circle Officer on the promise of getting a share in land price and Indira Awas fund. We ended up exchanging plots,letting the CO and middlemen loot government money for land purchase.”

* Jethu Manjhi: “Sold” 12 decimals to the government,with two of the beneficiaries being his own brothers,Baisakhi Manjhi and Baburam Manjhi.

* Sudam Devi: Wife of the late Musafir Manjhi,she sold 12 decimals to the government. Devi’s daughters-in-law,Matiya Devi,Srimati Devi and Rina Devi,and grandson Lavkush Manjhi got three decimals each from the plot of another villager. “We are illiterate people. We were told Indira Awas money would be given. We went to registry office and put thumb impression on papers we were asked to,” Sudam Devi told The Express.

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