Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Nov 15:
The Odisha government is fast becoming a theatre of the absurd. A full 14 days after the head of the three-member Task Force appointed to probe all allotments of government land and houses under the discretionary quota (DQ) since 1995, additional chief secretary (Revenue) Taradutt claimed to have submitted the eagerly awaited report to the government, the Urban Development department says it is yet to get the report.
“My department is yet to receive the report. I am hopeful that the Task Force will submit its report within the assigned time period,” said Housing and Urban Development Pushpendra Singhdeo on Friday, barely hours after Taradutt had told the media he had submitted the report on October 31.
So, who exactly did the Task Force submit its report to? And why has it taken two weeks for the report to reach the Housing and Uurban Development department, its logical destination (assuming that both the Task Force chief and the minnister are speaking the truth)? One could travel half the world and come back to base in the time that the report has taken to traverse the few hundred meters within the same building!
The minister’s discomfiture when confronted by media persons on the issue was unmistakable and was symptomatic of the unease in the whole government on the question of discretionary quota.
“Once we get the report we would ‘review’ its findings and then take action accordingly,” said a visibly uneasy Singhdeo. His comment left no room for doubt that the Task Force has come out with findings that don’t exactly show the government in shining colours. Given Taradatt’s reputation as a non-nonsense officer, the report is more than likely to embarrass a few big shots in the government and the ruling party.
Had that not been the case, there would have been no need to keep the findings away from the prying eyes of the public nor a need to ‘review’ them.
No wonder the BJP, which has gone hammer and tongs on the issue despite the possibility that its own state party president could be embarrassed for some of the allotments made during his tenure as the Housing and Urban Development minister in the BJD-BJP alliance government, saw in the discomfiture of the government a chance to put it on the mat.
“The state government is embroiled in the land scam right from the very start. It had formed the Task Force to get itself cleared in the land scam. Since 14 days have already elapse since the Tara Datt committee submitted its report to the government, why is the government not making it public?” questioned senior BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra here Friday.
On August 2 this year, a panicky state government had formed a three-member Task Force to review the indiscriminate allotment of land and houses under the discretionary quota after a lot of hue and cry following damning disclosures made in the CAG report pointing out indiscriminate allotments made to senior BJD leaders under the discretionary quota.
The Terms of Reference (ToR) framed for the Task Force announced by the government on August 12, required it to probe all allotments under the discretionary quota from 1 Jan 1995 to 31 July this year.
It was also tasked with probing all allotment of land, flats and houses in the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack urban areas under the discretionary quota, besides allotment of more than one unit of land/plot/flat to members of the same family.