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HC takes note of Arunachal airport rehabilitation scam

The ₹1,200-crore airport, coming up near State capital Itanagar, had led to the fall of the Congress and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Arunachal Pradesh in 2016. | Photo Credit: representative photo

The Gauhati High Court has taken note of a scam involving the rehabilitation of 156 Chakma tribal families displaced by the Hollongi greenfield airport in Arunachal Pradesh.

The ₹1,200-crore airport, coming up near State capital Itanagar, had led to the fall of the Congress and the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Arunachal Pradesh in 2016.

According to a PIL plea filed by the affected families in 2021 seeking a Central Bureau of India probe into the scam, about ₹35.92 crore meant for their rehabilitation and resettlement never reached them. The money was instead siphoned off by the Magistrate of the State’s Papum Pare district through the Chakma Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee (CRRC) comprising people not affected or distantly connected with the airport project, they said.

The money was supposed to have been transferred directly to the accounts of each of the 156 families.

Hearing the case on April 28, Justice Kalyan Rai Surana and Justice Robin Phukan observed that the State respondents (including the Deputy Commissioner of Papum Pare and the CRRC) did not file their affidavit-in-opposition since an order in the PIL was issued on November 1, 2021.

The court observed that the Deputy Commissioner had transferred the sum in two tranches to the account of the CRRC. It asked the Deputy Commissioner to file his affidavit-in-opposition at least two days prior to May 30, the next date of listing of the case, indicating “therein under which provision of law he had exercised the power to transfer rehabilitation and resettlement money” to the CRRC “instead of handing over the respective award to the 156 affected persons”.

The court also said it would be compelled to presume that the Deputy Commissioner has “admitted the statement made in the PIL” and the “matter would be heard on the basis of materials available on record” if he fails to submit the affidavit-in-opposition within the time allowed.

The CRRC was also given a similar instruction and asked to re-transfer the rehabilitation money back to the Deputy Commissioner for distribution to the affected families “in the event that the court finds that the money was wrongly transferred” in the first place.

The Arunachal Pradesh government had received ₹309.73 crore from a wing of the Ministry of Finance for the acquisition of land, compensation for standing assets, rehabilitation of the airport project-affected people and the shifting of utilities.

The land of 156 Chakma families was subsequently acquired through the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. Two sections of this Act make it mandatory for the compensation award to be transferred to the bank account of each displaced person or family.

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Printable version | May 9, 2022 7:35:45 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/hc-takes-note-of-arunachal-airport-rehabilitation-scam/article65394088.ece