[ Amar Sangno ]
YINGKIONG, 29 Dec: The defense-strategic road construction and upgrade of National Highway Double Laning (NHDL) of the Ditte-Dime-Migging (DDM) road in the border district of Upper Siang has ended up in a multi-crore land compensation scam, allegedly orchestrated by government employees, who were tasked to assess available land for the road.
The 96-Km Ditte-Dime-Migging road is being funded by the Ministry of Defense and executed by the Border Roads Organisation with a total amount of Rs 1,236.1 crore.
This scam came to light after a group of 45 land compensation beneficiaries, headed by Teteng Pangkam of Moying village filed a writ petition in July 2021 at the Gauhati High Court, Itanagar permanent bench, alleging that “exorbitant and high amount of compensation had been paid to few individuals who do not have any land and assets in the Dite-Dime-Migging road from 0.KM to 191 KM of package-I, II, III & IV.”
Taking cognizance of their writ petition, the High Court had directed the state vigilance department to conduct a preliminary inquiry in September.
After preliminary enquiry, the Special Investigation Cell (SIC) had submitted its report to the government on 11 October 2021. Subsequently, the state government had accorded approval for inquiry on 19 October and the SIC had registered a case on the same day (SIC PS Case No.09/2021 under section 120(B)/ 409/ 420/ 471/ 468/ IPC read with section 13(1) (a) & 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988).
Interestingly, the petitioners withdrew the petition even before a regular case inquiry had begun.
“We had been assured by the district administration of fair re-verification on our allegation, following which we withdrew our petition,” said Andre Duggo-ng, one of the petitioners.
As per records available with The Arunachal Times, the government officials, who were instrumental in carrying out the land assessment, and their relatives, have become millionaires overnight benefitting from the land compensation amount allegedly by fraudulent means.
The assessment team included Deputy Range Officer (Forest) Kopang Takuk, Horticulture Field Assistant (HFA) Yapang Tali, Land Branch Supervisor Kanungo (SK) Asang Modi and GREF Civil Engineer (AE) Vivek Shakya and an agriculture officer whose name was not mentioned as he reportedly did not join the team as there was no agriculture field.
Other than the GREF engineer, Takuk, Tali and Modi, then Land Revenue and Survey Officer (DLRSO) Nixon Danggen and Computer Operator Karick Lomi are now under the SIC’s scanner.
It is alleged that the team carried out the assessment, but not in a transparent manner as they inflated the rates in a fraudulent manner in favour of themselves and their relatives. There is no record available anywhere in the assessment sheets, determining the date and month of the assessment being carried out.
When contacted, then DLRSO Nixon Danggen denied his role in the assessment.
“I was not a member of the assessment team. I was not there on the ground,” Danggen claimed.
However, despite his claims of not being present during the assessment, Danggen had signed each of the copies of the assessment sheet authenticating the assessment, which was brought to him by SK Asang Modi.
Forest officer Kopang Takuk is the highest recipient of compensation among the official team with Rs 3,97,20,436 (Rupees three crore ninety-seven lakhs, twenty thousand and four hundred thirty-six only), reportedly against his 16 plots and also in the name of his wife and son in the package-II & III of the road project.
The investigation by this daily shows that Takuk had submitted an affidavit in the high court on 22 November declaring he had only 15 plots. He did not disclose the amount he and his family members received, which otherwise is shown in transaction records.
HFA Yapang Tali is the second highest recipient with an amount of Rs 3,52,25,016 (Rupees three crore fifty-two lakhs twenty-five thousand and sixteen only) against his 21 plots, which were not fully declared in his affidavit. Through, an affidavit on 29 November, Tali also declared that he had only 10 plots, whereas according to the records, he showed 21 plots. Out of the 21 plots, he declared 6 plots as community land. However, the compensation amount of mentioned six plots had been transferred to his account.
Barok Bitin, wife of SK Asang Modi had received Rs 2,80,20,411 (Rupees two crore eighty lakhs twenty thousand and four hundred eleven only) from her seven plots. The plots are in Package-II, III & IV of the project.
It is also alleged that individuals like Dinesh Patuk and Geyon Patuk, who were named by the 45 petitioners, are also related to SK Asang Modi.
None of the mentioned officials have responded to the queries sent by this daily.
Meanwhile, even as DLRSO Nixon Danggen denies any wrongdoing, his role is also reportedly under the SIC’s scanner.
Records say that there is no account of him receiving any amount. However, a beneficiary, identified as Ojor Apang is reportedly the wife of his brother, Nitom Danggen.
Ojor Apang has received an amount of Rs 98,40,169 (Rupees ninety-eight lakhs fourty thousand one hundred sixty-nine only) against her two plots. Nixon did not respond to the queries on his relationship with the beneficiary.
Fearing their detention in the alleged multi-crore compensation scam, Nixon, Kopang, Yapang and Karick had applied for anticipatory bail from the High Court.
The Gauhati High Court, Itanagar bench on 13 December rejected their anticipatory bail appeal.
It is learnt that the BRO had handed over two banker’s cheques in two phases on 13 November 2020 and 18 March 2021, amounting to Rs 97,79, 31, 847 crore in total to the Upper Siang deputy commissioner for disbursement.
So far, Rs 88,64,46,204 have been disbursed to 864 beneficiaries, while 118 beneficiaries are yet to receive the compensation amount.
Just after the disbursement of the compensation amount began, one Banyong Takuk lodged a complaint about bogus beneficiaries, following which Yingkiong Deputy Commissioner Taper Pada had constituted a board for re-verification of the claims on 28 July, 2021.
The committee submitted a report on 25 August, stating that selling of land at Bomdo and Janbo village can only be ascertained by the concerned village authority.
It is found that the sale deed agreement produced by Minkeng Dalbong, Barok Bitin and Dinesh Patuk were executed on the same day of 27th November, 2020, but not counter signed by the executive magistrate.
As directed by the vigilance commissioner, officials from the neighboring district of Siang are carrying out the fact finding process of the land compensation scam.
The fact finding committee (FFC) is headed by Boleng EAC Sara Enung Borang as chairperson, and DLRSO in-charge Obang Mibang and Agriculture Development Officer Boum Padung as members. The FFC has started site verification from Moying village since Monday.
The FFC has raised alarm of tempering and destroying of evidence by the executing agencies M/S SS Infrazone and M/S KRC, who work under the BRO, and that may amount to complicity in conspiracy.
It is alleged that executing agencies have deliberately executed physical works by engaging heavy machineries in most contentious stretches where there is allegation of highly inflated compensation rates.
“The BRO has already instructed the agencies to stop the work. No fresh cutting was carried out. However, for the smooth functioning of traffic, there is maintenance of the already cleared stretches,” said Officer in Command of 105 RCC, Obing Taki.