In what could be the biggest anti-encroachment operation in the capital in recent times, demolition teams acting under the district administration, police and Rapid Action Force launched a drive on Wednesday to reclaim 197 acres (934 bighas) of land in Asola village of south Delhi that at the time had constructions done illegally over it.
The area has properties owned by the high and mighty of the society, with politicians, businessmen and even a retired bureaucrat figuring in the list of encroachers on government and forest land. The per-acre cost of land here is a whopping Rs 20-25 cr. The operation, on the directions of the SC-appointed monitoring committee, continued till late evening.
More action is expected on Thursday. In the recent past too, Asola has been in the news for fraudulent land deals. In February, some of these cases came under the scanner of the CBI and the agency proceeded to register FIRs. It was reported in the media on February 15 that a strong nexus existed between the land mafia and lower revenue officials in Asola. The SC panel visited the site on February 19.
People had encroached upon the land by developing farmhouses, boundary walls, semi-permanent structures and structures set up in the name of social organisations. SC monitoring panel members K J Rao and Bhure Lal visited the site and have sought a report from DM (south) Amjad Tak. Asola was turned into a fortress on Wednesday as uniformed personnel took positions as early as 5am. Bulldozers were at work till after sunset. The teams went about bringing down buildings and boundary walls around government land encroached by land mafia who further sold them off as farmhouses to the rich and powerful and allowed some organisations to set up ashrams.
“As per directions of the Supreme Court’s monitoring committee, notices were served on encroachers on 42 khasra numbers to remove their encroachments themselves. However, they failed to remove the encroachments; therefore, this operation was planned. Some of those served notices also include occupants involved in tampering of revenue records into which the CBI is investigating,” the DM said. “The land is being secured by fencing and then by a permanent boundary wall,” he added. Tak said that one social organisation had encroached upon as much as 400 bighas. “Inside the premises too, the authorities found four illegal borewells, stone mining acitivities and construction material piled up in violation of NGT orders.
All this was being done on forest land,” he said. On one side of the road are luxurious farmhouses and, on the other, lies a fenced tract dotted with overgrown shrubs, trees and rugged pits. At the end of the road is a water-filled pit surrounded by a broken boundary wall. This portion, comprising khasra no. 1354 in the land revenue records of Asola village, actually belongs to the village, officials said. It was allegedly sold to one Raman Mehra by a private dealer who had conned her into the transaction by promising a better tract across the road. This illegal sale could not have been accomplished without the connivance of lower revenue officials, who hold the key to the status of land here. This case and five other land deals in this village are under CBI’s scanner.
Since the fraud was unearthed, the south district authorities, who are also the complainants in the case, have moved to rectify the illegal changes in the records and restored land status to “gram sabha land”. In fact, the road that divided the water-filled plot from the farmhouses now stands scrapped in revenue records.