Ex-minister, 8 IAS officers in Andhra named in multi-crore land scam by SIT
Former revenue minister Dharmana Prasada Rao of the opposition YSR Congress, eight senior IAS officers and other district-level officials from the stamps and registration department have been named in the multi-crore land scam in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam district by the special investigation team (SIT).
The team, constituted by the government of Andhra Pradesh in June last year to inquire into complaints of tampering of records that lead to the alienation of 1,226 acres of prime government lands in 40 mandals in and around Visakhapatnam city, submitted a detailed report to the state cabinet on Tuesday.
The SIT, comprising deputy inspector general of police Vineet Brij Lal, joint collector G Srijana and deputy collector of Visakhapatnam L Vijayasaradhi recommended criminal action against those allegedly involved in the scam. The cost of land that slipped out of government’s hands runs into hundreds of crores of rupees, the report said.
Dharmana Prasada Rao, who served as revenue minister during the period when the scam was reported, is accused of obtaining no objection certificates (NOCs) by manipulating a section of official machinery for alienating three acres of land assigned to an ex-serviceman in favour of Virgin Rocks Private Limited, a granite mining and export company located in Madhuravada area for which he is a promoter.
Prasada Rao, the regional coordinator of the YSR Congress, alleged he was being targeted by the ruling Telegu Desam Party (TDP) in an apparent bid to browbeat leaders belonging to opposition parties.
“We purchased the land at ₹5.3 crore only after the seller obtained a NOC from the then district collector and the sale deed for the same was executed by the revenue and stamps and registration departments jointly. Where is the scope for tampering of records?” he asked while speaking to the Hindustan Times.
The former minister pointed out that the SIT remained silent over the fraud in land deals reported from 2014 only to cover up the bigwigs in the ruling TDP.
Those accused in the scam as per the SIT report also include three IAS officers who served as Visakhapatnam’s district collector over a period of time, three other officers during their stint as joint collector, a district revenue officer, who was later promoted as an IAS officer and is currently serving as a district collector in the Rayalaseema region.
One of them is the then district collector and is currently on deputation at the Centre and another has opted for Telangana cadre after the state’s bifurcation.
Revenue minister KE Krishnamurthy announced the formation of the SIT after his cabinet colleague Chintakayala Ayyanna Patrudu, holding the roads and buildings portfolio, blew the whistle over the land scam.
Patrudu came out with specific complaints about tampering of records showing government lands as private to facilitate a change of hands in eight mandals. The then district collector admitted the alienation of lands to the extent of 360 acres through fraudulent methods after going into the veracity of the complaints.
This forced the government to constitute the SIT with terms of reference to extend the scope of probe up to 40 mandals and the period during which the scam took place also be extended up to 2004.
Some of the officers named in the scam could not be reached for their comments.