A 12.2-acre property in a village in Jharkhand’s Bokaro has become a bone of contention between private landowners and the Jharkhand Industrial Area Development Authority. A legal tussle is underway as both parties claim ownership.
Ongoing construction at the site. Photo: Amit Kumar Singh
In September 2018, Amit Kumar Singh, 29, saw rampant construction work going on at the 12.2-acre (around 5 hectares) land in Godabali village in Jharkhand’s Bokaro district he co-owned with his cousins, a property they inherited from their late grandfather Dhanu Singh.
Amit and his cousins – Pankaj Kumar, Birendra Kumar Singh and Arun Kumar Singh – did not commission any construction work at this property, which lies in an industrial area.
Then, who did?
A Kolkata-based private company – Digvijay Ferromat Private Limited – was behind the construction. Pankaj, an advocate working at the Supreme Court of India, alleged that the Jharkhand Industrial Area Development Authority (JIADA), Bokaro, illegally, gave his ancestral property to the private firm.
JIADA, formerly known as Bokaro Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA), is responsible for acquisition of land, development of infrastructure facility within their jurisdiction.
The four petitioners moved Ranchi High Court, and filed writ petition C 551 last year against any further development at the property. They have been running pillar to post to get the property they believe to own back.
In June 2020, the petitioners noticed that construction has resumed at the property. Gaon Connection spoke to the petitioners, the land acquisition officer, Bokaro, and the secretary of the development authority in detail about the issue. All the parties have different stories to tell.
“The claim of the petitioners is completely false. The land was acquired by the BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Coal Limited) long ago. It is the land of Director, Project, and Land Rehabilitation, and it was given to our authority in 1974,” Sandip Kumar, the secretary of JIADA told Gaon Connection.
According to the petitioners, the disputed land was never acquired by the state government and no compensation has been given to the original land owners.
“In 2017, our plot, about 13 acres (around 5.3 hectares), was apparently allotted to ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) in Bokaro for coal bed emission projects. The land allotment letter was signed between ONGC and JIADA. In September 2018, when construction started on our land, we got to know about the project,” claimed Pankaj, one of the petitioners.
Early last year, the petitioners moved the High Court of Jharkhand at Ranchi seeking direction to restrain any unauthorised entry of the land. On February 13, 2019, the High Court gave direction: Development, if any, taken place on the land in question will be subject to the outcome of the writ petition.
Meanwhile, ONGC pulled out of the project. “But, the development authority allotted the property to the Digvijay Ferromat private company,” alleged Pankaj. He claimed that they had the No Objection Certificate issued by the land acquisition office in 2018. However, the secretary of JIADA informed Gaon Connection that the 2018 No Objection Certificate has been amended and the land is acquired.
According to him, Ferromat has completed 60 per cent of boundary work. He also alleged that police is not helping the petitioners to stop the ongoing construction of the controversial site.
Apart from the development authority, the petitioners contacted the directors of Digvijay Ferromat, the company which is undertaking the construction at the site. The latter informed, through its letter, that three of its four director have already resigned and the petitioners should sought out the matter with JIADA.
Gaon Connection contacted James Surin, the land acquisition officer, JIADA, at Bokaro. “This land was acquired in 1954-56, and during the same time the petitioner’s family was compensated. Their recent claim is false,” he said. The same was confirmed by secretary of JIADA as well.
Meanwhile, some more local people have made allegations against the land acquisition in Bokaro by JIADA. “My husband owned around five acres (around 2 hectares) land in Godabali village, which he used to farm. Two years back, the development authority illegally captured our land. It started digging our land with JCB, my husband protested,” Baby Alam, 45, widow of Mohd Alam, told Gaon Connection. Four months after he protested against the land acquisition and even wrote to the then chief minister, Mohd Alam died in a road accident.
On being questioned about Mohd Alam’s case, Surin said “We will have to check since it’s an old matter, dated around 1980-81.”
Amid this legal battle over the land in Godabali village in Bokaro, the petitioners have written to Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren informing him, “ … all the private land allotted by JIADA, Bokaro to Digvijay Ferromet Private Limited have been done on the basis of connivance, conspiracy, fraud and misrepresentation,” asking him for his intervention into the matter.