July 19, 2011 1:05:44 AM
Swati Das | Chennai
The newly-elected Tamil Nadu Government’s move to set up Land Grabbing Cells in the State seems to have opened Pandora’s box. As complaints pour in against the DMK functionaries, their support groups and real estate agents, an alarming picture of land frauds during the previous Karunanidhi Government is coming to light.
This was the tenure, during 2004-05, when real estate prices went up almost by four to five times and maximum use of forged documents and impersonations took place in order grab lands. Land grab victims, who had then lost faith in the DMK regime, are now coming out in hordes with their complaints along with evidence.
The announcement by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa that the cells would be opened all over the State to take complaints against land grabbing is part of her poll plank. Most of the cases have come from Salem, where the fiefdom of former DMK Minister, Veerapandi S Arumugam, has not only been a problem for the people living in the region but also to the former Chief Minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi. The other key region from where complaints are coming is Karunanidhi’s son and Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister, MK Alagiri’s, fiefdom — Madurai region.
When the decision to set up these cells was announced, Karunanidhi protested saying that the cells should look into all cases of land grabbing and not just take up cases against DMK men. He also promised legal assistance from the party to fight the “false” cases. Terming the announcement as “unleashing of terror”, he made clear that those who have committed the crime must be punished. It is being seen as his way of targetting Arumugam and reprimanding Alagiri.
The key fraud cases revolve around Angammal Colony in Salem where Arumugam and his family calls the shots. The issue first hogged the limelight in 2008 when 70 families of the colony near the city’s New Bus Stand were evicted by DMK men led by Arumugam’s nephew, Suresh Kumar (also implicated in a murder case of six members of a family and land grab cases last year), and their houses were razed. Residents claimed that the land was allotted to them by a popular jeweller of the city 50 years ago.
A petition in the Madras High Court led to a magisterial inquiry on July 17, 2008. Revenue divisional officer Bala Gurumoorthy concluded that Kousik Bhoopathy, personal assistant of Arumugam, had the power of attorney over the property. Now, the residents have disputed the claim and are taking it up. Arumugam’s name also figures in the complaint.
A case was filed against Arumugam’s son and former MLA A Rajendran alias A Raja alleging land grab but the complainant withdrew the plea. Yet another case was registered and Raja sought bail, which was denied.
From Alagiri’s side his close associate G Thalapathy has been charged with land grabbing in Madurai and his henchman, ‘Attack’ Pandi, was arrested last week on charges of land grabbing, cheating, forgery and other criminal activities.
In Coimbatore DMK functionary, M Siva alias Meenkadai Siva along with the district panchayat vice-chairman E Anandan were also arrested. In Ranipet (Vellore district), Municipal Council Chairman Krishnamoorthy was arrested for fraud in a public sector bank, while former MLA KP Ramasamy was charged of grabbing seven acres of land.
In Kodaikanal, Municipal Chairman Mohammad Ibrahim was arrested recently for grabbing land worth Rs 30 crore. In Vellore district, a former MLA’s son has been accused of land grabbing, while a Tiruvannamalai couple has slapped land grabbing complaints against another former DMK MLA R Sivanandam, and his sons Lokesh and Babu.
According to police records based on the complaints filed at the land grabbing cells, most victims are widows, senior citizens, farmers and NRIs. Even temple lands coming under the government have not been spared. It has been reported that many victims are now getting back their money following complaints lodged at the Land Grabbing Cells.
In the list of perpetrators, many real estate agents – even small-timers – have been arrested with fraud charges. Any land or property lying idle was targeted by the agents, who forged papers and hired people to impersonate owners in order to sell properties. In case of vulnerable owners, forged documents were used. Cases of buying land at a much less cost were rampant in Chennai and if complaints were lodged by the victims, intimidation (mostly by political bigwigs) was used to scare the victims.