Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fakes take Flight at Srinagar Airport

Srinagar land scam: Over hundred acres of airfield sold
NDTV Correspondent, Updated: July 23, 2011 12:32 IST

Srinagar: Shocking as it may sound, India's most security-sensitive airfield the Srinagar Air Force Station and International Airport has been on sale for four years, and till recently nobody knew about it!

NDTV has exclusive documents that show bit by bit more than 100 acres of the 2,300-acre airfield has been sold to private players by land sharks who bribed their way through the Defence Estates Office and the government's Revenue Department.

These corrupt officials cleared sale agreements in such a zone that could easily fall prey to cross-border terror; selling off pieces of an area, ironically, we are not even allowed to enter.

A R Hanjura, a lawyer, bought 1.5 acres of this land in Naaru Village in 2008. He bought it from Mrs. Fazi, who claimed to be the previous landlord, and had the papers to show for it.

Mr Hanjura says these were Revenue Department records that confirmed the land was still in Mrs Fazi's name, even though the area was being used by the Defence.

Mr Hanjura was told once the plot is his he could claim rent from the Defence.

The sale was cleared by the Defence Estates Office in Srinagar, whose permission was mandatory, since the plot fell in an area under its use.

It was also verified by the Revenue Department that it belonged to Mrs Fazi and not the Defence Ministry. Mr Hanjura bought the plot at a pittance for Rs. 20,000 which he thought to be a bargain, till he was told it was a fraudulent sale of Defence land.

According to documents with NDTV, at least 60 buyers like Mr Hanjura risked purchasing village land, right inside the airfield since 2008, hoping for a rent from the Defence.

They drew assurance from the fact that a Defence Office okayed the purchases.

"I have been deceived. I have obtained a no-objection certificate from the Defence Estates Office. That way it was perfect for me to purchase this land," said A. R. Hanjura, man who bought plot in Srinagar airfield.

NDTV has accessed many of these No-Objection Certificates, issued by the previous Defence Estates Officer Ajay Chowdhary.

It claims that the plots were neither acquired nor requisitioned nor hired by the Defence Ministry.

Blatantly contradicting these documents that show the Defence Ministry acquired this whole area, all 2,300 acres, way back in the 50s and the 60s.

The catch: Only 500 acres of these acquisitions have been updated in the revenue records of the state till today because of red tape and inefficiency in both the Defence and Revenue offices.

"The Revenue Department does not give any documents required unless they get no-objection, requisite clearance from the Defence Estates Office. Once they give no objection, that means all encumbrances are ruled out," said Rafi Ahmad Deputy Commissioner and Collector, Budgam District.

The Srinagar Defence Estates now under a new officer has challenged petitions of five buyers who demanded rent. Alternately they were asked to vacate the land.

The Defence has argued these petitions be dismissed, since the purchase of these plots is a scam. It has also stopped issuing NOCs pertaining to any land sale in the area.

This is along the lines of the Adarsh Scam in Mumbai, which exposed the collusion between Defence and government officials, trying to make a profit from sale of properties occupied by the Defence. Only in this case the stakes and dangers of such a sale are much higher.
Srinagar land scam: Over hundred acres of airfield sold

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