21 Jun 2022  |   06:19am IST

SIT must net the big fish

The Goa administration's move to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe land grabbing and illegal transfer of land ownership is a welcome step.

It seems like a big scam where even the dead are not being spared. One doesn’t know the magnitude of it, but hopefully, the SIT will find it.

Herald’s series of exposes has opened up a can of worms, in which the landowners have been robbed of their land. There are few names that are commonly found in almost  90 per cent of the cases.

The culprits use the method of creating fake sale deeds and grab the property by transferring them to one of the members' names and then further sell the properties within themselves showing that the land is sold by providing different addresses. 

In most of these cases, it is found that sale deeds are found signed either after the person is dead or making the person ‘alive’ after the death. Ironically, in some cases, sale deeds are found signed by persons who are not even born.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant himself admitted that the land mafia had sold off or acquired government lands too. Many complaints were received by the police on the fraudulent sale of lands.

One thing is very clear and that is such a blatant violation of law without fearing any punitive action can't happen without the blessings of the powerful politicians.

While the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has made its first arrest in Margao in connection with a land grab case reported in Assagao, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge for the SIT would be to dig deep into this mess and find out the culprits. Make no mistake, they must have got alerted by now and have already started clearing their tracks. In the due course of the investigation, the SIT will certainly stumble upon some very big fish who have been fed by their henchmen floating in coastal areas.

It would be interesting to see if the SIT arrests only the small fries or if it will succeed in catching and frying the big fish. If it wilts under pressure and catches only the footsoldiers then it would be sham and waste of time. The real success will be only when the big handlers are brought to the book.

Again, the investigations will reveal the names of the policemen involved, who never acted on the complaints made by the victims. Ideally, it should, because all these incidents of land grab can’t continue unabated for so long without the knowledge of local police.

Hence, the investigation has to be done in detail and every loophole should be closed. The charge sheet should be watertight so that the accused don’t get any chance to secure relief from the court – neither from the trial court nor the higher courts. If this investigation is taken to its logical conclusion and the big guns are put behind the bar, then this could be a template for all other State governments to follow because land grab is not endemic to Goa only.

What needs to be seen is does the State government and the police machinery have the guts in them to nail the real culprits or if the entire investigation will become a sham by arresting only junior-level government officials. The entire country is now looking at Goa Police with hope. The time has come for it to catch the bull by its horns.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar