Tribal daily wager buys 74 acres of prime land in Chhattisgarh

Raipur : Can a tribal labourer eking out Rs.122 a day under a job guarantee scheme in Chhattisgarh be owning 74 acres of double-crop farm land valued at a whopping Rs.3.36 crore? Believe it or not, he does – according to a state Congress leader and former minister.

Vilam Singh, 26, is a tribal labourer enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and belongs to Kawardha, the home district of chief minister Raman Singh.

He has, it now turns out, bought the land in phases between July 2010-Jan 2011 in neighbouring Janjgir-Champa district in an area where a private power company is setting up a coal-fired power plant. Vilam Singh has been reported missing for a few months.

Buttressing his claim, Congress leader and former Chhattisgarh minister Mohammad Akbar has produced all documents of land purchases of Vilam Singh, who comes from the Pandariya assembly constituency, which Akbar represents in the state assembly.

“I talked to many residents of Vilam Singh’s native village Chhirpani about his economic status and each one said he and his family are reeling under severe poverty. In fact, they struggled for food for years,” Akbar said.

“The big question, however, is how a person who is dependent on an MGNREGS job to survive has managed to get 45 land deals worth Rs.3.36 crore registered in a short time,” Akbar said, after giving copies of the documents to media persons Thursday.

“In all probability, that MGNREGS worker is still not aware that he is an owner of such a massive precious land,” Akbar added.

“The information I am getting is that he was used as a ‘cover’ by a power company to purchase several local tribals’ lands in his name to set up its plant by evading the land law existing in the state regarding tribals. And also to avoid high land compensation and rehabilitation package applicable for the use of private land for industrial purposes,” he said.

According to the law in the state, the sale of tribals’ land to non-tribals is prohibited, and requires special permission of the district collector. Any land acquisition also entails compensation and rehabilitation to the affected tribals.

Akbar, who enjoys reputation in the political circles here for raising serious issues, said he was striving to locate Vilam Singh to know the truth behind the shocking case.

He has sought a probe into the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and said he would raise the issue in the state assembly.

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