Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Aug 13:
It seems the embarrassment for the Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha over the allotment of land and houses in the Twin City under the ‘discretionary quota’ is not going to end in a hurry. Agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy is the latest to join the long list of ruling party leaders, officials and journalists who have fraudulently obtained houses in Bhubaneswar under the much maligned quota.
Fresh revelations suggest that Maharathy has availed of a HIG duplex house at Dharma Vihar in Khandagiri area from the Odisha State Housing Board (OSHB) under the discretionary quota back in 1995 despite having ancestral property in the city, a clear violation of rules.
Under the rules of the General Administration (GA) department, no one having a piece of land or a house in the capital city can apply for a land or house under the discretionary quota. But Maharathy, being Maharathy, not only applied for but actually obtained a house under the quota.
While this allotment itself has been done in clear violation of the rules and norms, the Pipli MLA has compounded his misdemeanour by annexing a piece of land larger than the one allocated to him by showing it to be a ‘cut piece’ land. While the duplex house that he obtained under the discretionary quota measures 2, 200 sq ft, the adjacent land annexed by him is of even bigger size: 2553 sq ft.
It is not clear how the OSHB accepted Maharathy’s argument that it was a ‘cut piece’ land and charged him just Rs 12 lakh for it, a fraction of the going market rate, when the size of the land is bigger than the plot allotted to him.
The rules say the ‘cut piece’ land should have been auctioned.
Maharathy though predictably denied any wrong-doing. “I have done nothing illegal. Whatever I have to tell, I shall tell the task force. If the chief minister asks me, I shall return everything,” he said.
Two days ago, the Agriculture minister had asked; “Is taking land or house a sin? Many journalists and bureaucrats have taken land. Why are you only taking on the political leaders?”
After the damaging revelations about Rajya Sabha MP Kalpataru Das and his family availing multiple houses in the capital, a worried government had hurriedly constituted a task force to probe the misuse of the discretionary quota by ministers and bureaucrats to grab land and houses in the Twin City.
But with fresh revelations about the abuse of the quota emerging almost on a daily basis, the task force clearly has its task cut out.