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Enforcement Directorate traces grabbed land to 1930s in crackdown on mafia

By Munish Chandra Pandey: The Enforcement Directorate, in a first for any central agency, has begun cracking down on mafias involved in land grabbing, including a plot in Jharkhand dating back to pre-independence.

On April 13, the financial probe agency conducted searches on 22 premises linked to mafias, government servants and a bureaucrat involved in grabbing land belonging to the poor, weak and the dead.

During the probe, ED officials stumbled upon a piece of land originally registered to a Jharkhand resident – Jayant Karnad. The 4.55 acres of land in Ranchi, currently under the possession of the Indian Army, was sold out to a Kolkata-based firm, Jagatbandhu Tea Estate, by a gang using forged documents. One Dilip Ghosh is the director of the Jagatbandhu Tea Estate but, according to sources, the beneficiary of the land is Amit Aggarwal, allegedly a close aide of top politicians of Bengal.

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According to the ED, fake documents were created to show that in 1932, the land was purchased from raiyats by one Praful Bagchi. The registry, dating back to 1932, was shown at the land registry office in Kolkata. After 90 years, it was fraudulently sold to Dilip Gosh of Jagatbandhu Tea Estate in 2021 by Praful’s son Pradeep Bagchi.

When the ED began probing the matter, they found that the land-grabbing gang created the fake documents very systematically. The gang used chemicals to erase the old records and inserted the names of dummy owners.

Several government officials from the registrar’s offices were found to be helping the gang in exchange for money. During the searches, the ED found that the accused were in possession of government seals, old stamp papers, several deeds and registry documents which are only found at a registrar’s office.

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The land, situated in the heart of the city, was originally registered in the name of Pramod Nath Das Gupta and was later transferred to his rightful legal heir, Jayant Karnad. As per the records, the land was given on rent to the Army in 1943.

The original owner, Karnad, filed a case before the court, requesting his land be released from the Army and, in 2009, the court asked the Army to vacate the land.

The Army challenged the order before a higher court but got no relief. However, Karnad never got possession of the land.

The ED got the documents checked by forensic scientists who confirmed that they were forged.

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During the probe, the ED found that over a dozen such plots in Jharkhand, owned by those who can’t afford a legal battle, were grabbed by the gang.

The agency has so far found hundreds of registry documents and deeds and suspects that more such cases will come to light during the investigation.

Apart from the five government servants, the ED also searched the premises linked to a 2011 batch IAS officer, Chhavi Ranjan.

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