Kerala

Vigilance forms SIT on wetland conversion

Sees rampant use of fake govt. orders

The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) has received preliminary intelligence that the illegal conversion of wetlands to saleable real estate using forged government orders and fabricated documents was more widespread in the State than presumed initially.

In response, Director, VACB, Anil Kant, has constituted a special investigation team to unearth other such violations, if any. SP, K.E. Baiju, will head the SIT.

Officials said Mr. Kant had flagged up the possibility that there could be more attempts to convert wetlands using the same method witnessed in Choornikkara in Ernakulam district.

The VACB had earlier arrested four persons, including a clerk attached to the Land Revenue Commissioner’s office in Thiruvananthapuram, on the charge of having forged government orders and proceedings to abet the illegal conversion of 25 cents of wetland into prime real estate.

The agency has also made the landowner, who paid a sizeable commission to the suspects, an accused in the case.

Investigators said more public servants could be involved in similar fraud cases.

Investigators said preliminary evidence indicated that the Choornikkara deceit was not a one-off case. It could just be the tip of the iceberg, and the possibility of use of forged documents to alter land use pattern for the commercial advantage of a few could be widespread.

Village officer’s role

The Choornikkara village officer’s refusal to accept the fake documents had blown the lid off the racket.

In a related development, officials said the government was likely to order an anti-corruption investigation into the allegation that supervisory officers had allowed a Tamil Nadu-based firm to reclaim 15 acres of paddy fields in Kunnathunadu in Ernakulam district overruling objections of local revenue enforcers despite strong local resistance.

The Revenue Department has sought legal opinion for proceeding further in the matter.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 9:49:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vigilance-forms-sit-on-wetland-conversion/article27142186.ece

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