Defence land rent scam worth crores unearthed

CBI tightens noose around several officials

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, May 5: A major Defence lands rent  scam worth several crores has been unearthed in Rajouri district of Jammu region, as over 50 farmers residing  closer to the Line of Control (LoC) were getting rent of over 400 kanals of land from the Indian Army which was actually existing in Pakistan occupied Kashmir since decades.
These startling revelations came to the light when on a specific complaint, a villager from Nowshera area recently, disclosed the matter to some agencies in Jammu and also the District Administration Rajouri. It was revealed that about 50 odd farmers residing closer to the LoC in Jhangar, Kalsian and adjoining areas  in Nowshera sector, with the connivance of Revenue officials including concerned Patwaris, Girdawars, Naib Tehsildars and Tehsildar  and  a few officials  from the  Defence Estates Department (MoD) were drawing  rent for the last more than three decades, on fake documents of the land which actually existed in PoK.
A special team from Central Bureau of Investigation from Delhi was deputed to investigate the case and fix responsibility on the officials and other people involved in this Defence land scandal  worth tens of crores. The CBI team comprising of seven officials headed by an officer of SSP rank secured record from the senior Revenue officials at Rajouri on Friday and also paid visit to Nowshera  area.
They also sought the list of the beneficiaries who are about 50 in number.  The CBI team besides,  scrutinizing the relevant Revenue record also secured information about the names of  officials/ officers who prepared the forged documents, just to siphon out Defence funds worth cores, fill their own coffers and also provide benefit to the people of  the  land which no where exists under Indian control but is actually lying on other side of the Line of Control.
The Deputy Commissioner, Rajouri, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary when contacted confirmed the secret visit of  special CBI team from Delhi. He said this is the second visit of the team. On earlier occasion also, they had collected relevant Revenue documents. He said after the matter came to his  notice through a local villager, it was referred to the Central agency (CBI) as the funds worth cores belonged  to Defence Ministry.
Dr Iqbal revealed that he took pains to study the case and was surprised to note that these people in possible connivance with the State Revenue and a few Defence Estates officials, were drawing rent worth over cores for the last few decades for the land which does not exists at all under their domain.
The Revenue record was studied thoroughly and it was found that this land under Khasras  shown actually falls some where on that side of the fence and in PoK. But they managed to secure rent from the Ministry of Defence (CDA) regularly and this scam went unnoticed since long. The DC said in the first step, he wrote to the Defence Estates Department and stopped  the payment of rent during ending 2017.  At present, the direct payment from Defence Estates Deptt to the accounts of the beneficiaries  has been stopped.  The case is now lying with the CBI.
Replying to a question, the Deputy Commissioner said that as per rough estimates in just last 10-12 years, they have siphoned out rent more than Rs 10 crores  of  about 400 kanals of land located  on that side of the LoC. He said some  Revenue officers led by  Additional Deputy Commissioner were coordinating with the CBI team and assisting them to reach up to the depth of this case and fix responsibility on the officials responsible for preparing fake Revenue documents.
He said this is biggest ever fraud committed in this area in the recent past and those found guilty will have to face the action. He disclosed that some Revenue and other Defence Accounts officials and beneficiaries are likely to face arrests and stringent action shortly.
Official sources further revealed that one Chhotu Ram from Jhangar sub sector of Nowshera had initially lodged complaint with the Deputy Commissioner Rajouri that some families of the area on the basis of forged documents were getting rent of over 1200 kanals of land which actually falls on that side of the fence and PoK for the last more than 40 years.
He also pin pointed three persons describing them as mastermind behind this  entire multi crore Defence land scam.  The name of a Defence Estates Officer from Jammu has also figured in the investigations. The sources said that several heads may roll after the investigations of  the CBI is completed and several arrests of even  a few retired officials involved in the case can not be ruled out in near future.