In June 2017, the TDP government coming under pressure from various quarters, formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by DIG Vineet Brijlal to inquire into the alleged land-grabbing cases in Visakhapatnam district.
The SIT grabbed a lot of attention and after a painstaking and detailed inquiry, the SIT submitted its report after about six months.
The TDP government, at the time of forming the SIT, promised that it will make the report public, but it was never done, except for tabling a brief summary of the report that contained the involvement of a former Revenue Minister in the then Congress government and a few bureaucrats, including a few who served under various capacities in Visakhapatnam in the last two decades.
This drew much flak from all quarters, including YSR Congress president Jagan Mohan Reddy and a senior Cabinet colleague in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet.
Former Roads and Buildings Minister in the TDP government Ayyanna Patrudu was vocal about the alleged land scam and he himself had filed a petition with the SIT accusing another senior TDP leader from the district of having played a key role in the land-grabbing incidents.
Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy, during his padayatra in the district, raised concern over the SIT report and even staged a dharna, demanding a CBI inquiry into the land scam, as he felt that the report was eyewash and the main culprits were being shielded.
MLA-elect from Anakapalle and YSRCP leader Gudivada Amarnath said that the main issues such as Daspalla Hill land scam, Med Tech City land scam and land pooling issue was not taken up by the SIT, as desired.
“The SIT did a fine job, but the TDP government had toned it down and made a few bureaucrats scapegoats and the actual culprits have been let free,” he said.
The SIT received about 2,875 petitions through various modes and it had taken up 333 petitions for inquiry. This apart, about 11 complaints were made by political leaders, including Mr. Ayyanna Patrudu, and 68 NOC land issue cases were taken up by the SIT.
The NOC cases were a major challenge for the SIT. In many cases, the original DR files or ‘Darkhast Registers’ were found missing.
A senior police officer who was part of SIT said, “We did come across cases where documents have been fabricated showing that the land was assigned to ex-servicemen, freedom fighters or political sufferers and NOC (no objection certificate) was obtained fraudulently for sale by land grabbers. NOC or DR, where beneficiary requests for a no objection certificate have gone missing, the lands pertained are sizeable and in prime localities,” said the officer.
During the course of investigation about 1,100 acres of land in the district was identified by SIT as government land that was grabbed by land sharks. The SIT had recommended the government to take back the land, but action taken so far, has not been made public. This apart, another 356 acres had been identified to be taken over in Madhurawada, Pardesipalem and PM Palem, said another officer who was in SIT.
A revenue official, G.L. Ganeswara Rao, who allegedly tampered with the records to alienate 356 acres of government land, was arrested and the SIT recommended criminal action against 32 private individuals and 30 government officials. The status of action taken is still not known.
Based on SIT report, cases of land grabbing were also registered against Anakapalle MLA Peela Govind.
Active members of civil society who have raised a hue and cry against the rampant and illegal land grabbing incidents in the city feel that it is now left to Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is set to take oath as the new Chief Minister, to look into the matter.
“As promised he should not only make the report public, but also take action against all those involved, including senior political leaders, irrespective of the parties that they belong to,” said a senior activist.