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MP: Railways Sniff Rs 300 Crore Corruption in 541-km Lalitpur-Singrauli Line, Allege Inaction by State Govt

Kashif Kakvi |
Outsiders and phantom beneficiaries, with the help of officials, allegedly grabbed a major share of the compensation offered to land losers, mainly tribals, in Sidhi and Singrauli.
Kursa village where half-built concrete houses cropped up which were to be acquired. Photo - Kashif Kakvi

Kursa village where half-built concrete houses cropped up which were to be acquired. Photo - Kashif Kakvi

Bhopal/Singrauli: Except for narrow-muddy roads, dark green woods and small hillocks, the tiny hamlet Kursa, 50 km away from the Singrauli district headquarters, presents nothing extraordinary.

Yet, the village has hogged the limelight in the past two-three years after the Madhya Pradesh government, on behalf of the Indian Railways, notified a major patch of this village as protected area for the acquisition for laying the 541-km Lalitpur-Singrauli railway line under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act - 2013.

Immediately after the notification, half-built concrete houses began to crop up like mushrooms in those patches of the village that were to be acquired.

When NewsClick visited Kursa village in July this year, they were in for a shock, because in a village, where residents are unable to arrange for two meals a day, wearing tattered clothes and lacking basic amenities of daily life, numerous unclaimed concrete houses, from where the railway track is passing, were found.

A group of tribal people, living in decades-old mud packs around these constructions, said those houses were built in the past two-three years by 'outsiders' after the area had been notified as ‘protected’ for laying the railway tracks. They were, however, clueless about who was behind constructing these houses and why they had deserted it.

"In the past two-three years, many outsiders bought land from tribals at throwaway prices," said Veer Bahadur Singh, a tribal resident of the village, whose three dismal lands were surveyed a year ago for the acquisition but he had no idea about the compensation. "Tribals sold lands as they were unaware of the Railway's project," he added.

The story does not end there. Houses are still being built on lands notified to be acquired when NewsClick visited the area. 

The under-construction home of Brij Mohan, a resident of Kursa village. His home is to be   acquired under the railway project. [Photo- Kashif Kakvi]

The under-construction home of Brij Mohan, a resident of Kursa village. His home is to be acquired under the railway project. [Photo- Kashif Kakvi]

A 45-year-old tribal, Surajbhan Singh, a driver by profession, claimed to have taken a loan of Rs 25 lakh to build a huge house on his land after it was notified for the acquisition.

He expects a compensation of over Rs 2 crore from the Railways for the under-construction structure. His five brothers are also following in his footsteps in a bid to claim a heavy compensation, Singh told Newsclick.

Kursa is one of the 22 villages in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh where the Railways is acquiring land for the construction of the 541-km-long Lalitpur-Singrauli line.

The Lalitpur - Singrauli Rail Line Project

The Central government proposed laying of the railway tracks to connect Uttar Pradesh to eastern Madhya Pradesh in 1997-98, but the project got delayed because of funds. It picked up again on October 18, 2016, when the then Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu sanctioned Rs 6,672 crore and laid the foundation at the yet-to-come-up Sidhi railway station.

The under-construction 541-km Lalitpur-Singrauli Rail Line Project. [Photo - Special Arrangement]


The under-construction 541-km Lalitpur-Singrauli Rail Line Project. [Photo - Special Arrangement]  

When the two-decade-old project got funds, many saw it as an opportunity to make some fast bucks through backhanders. Work on almost 460-km-patch of the Lalitpur-Singrauli railway line out of 541 km, went smoothly, but it hit a roadblock after the work started in Sidhi and Singrauli.    

"The proposed route between Sidhi and Singrauli changed within two weeks of the inauguration," said BJP's Rajya Sabha MP, Ajay Pratap Singh. "The new route is not only eight kilometers longer than the proposed one but also passes through the villages of powerful landlords, politicians and bureaucrats, which causes a 10-minute delay for the people to reach their destinations."

When Singh raised this issue in Parliament, seeking the reason for the change in the proposed route, Union Railway Minister Ashwani Vaishnaw said, “Local reasons were behind changing the proposed route.”

The revised map of the 76-km Sidhi Singrauli rail project. [Photo - Railway]


The revised map of the 76-km Sidhi Singrauli rail project. [Photo - Railway]

Singh pointed out: "The addition of 8 km increases the financial burden on the Railway by over Rs 100 crore as well as delays the project, hampering development of the region. Apart from that, there is rampant corruption in land acquisition.”

Officials involved in corruption, says BJP MP  

In land acquisition for laying tracks in a 76-km area in Sidhi-Singrauli, the Railway authorities smelt a rat – alleged corruption of Rs 300 crore, according to its internal review report of April 3 this year, accessed by NewsClick. The alleged corruption came to the fore after the Railways received numerous complaints of corruption in both the districts. Apart from 22 villages in Singrauli, the Railways has been acquiring land for six years in 91 villages at Sidhi.      

In Singrauli’s Kursa alone, according to a letter, possessed by NewsClick, written by the construction division of West-Central Railway to the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh, Principal Secretary [Revenue] and Singrauli district collector, there were discrepancies in 27 plots out of 60.

Singh alleged that some corrupt officials, including the Sub-divisional Magistrate, land acquisition officers, tehsildars, patwaris were in collusion with land mafias to cheat the Railways of crores of rupees. "This syndicate is so powerful that they have managed to change the proposed route and passed it through those localities where they have already purchased lands to mint money,” he said.

When asked whether politicians of the ruling party were  also involved in corruption, he said, “My party and I have a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. Those who are involved in it should be held accountable.”

Riti Pathak, who represents Sidhi parliamentary seat, said the Lalitpur-Singrauli rail project would give a new lease of life to the region especially Sidhi, which doesn't have a railway line. But the issue of corruption in land acquisition had delayed the project. 

When questioned, whether she had received any complaints of corruption in land acquisition, Pathak said, “I came across many complaints, which I forwarded to the district collectors of both the districts for probe. They have also formed probe committees in some cases. But I do not know the outcome.” 

“It’s up to the district administration to take action against the wrongdoers, if any, and speed up the project,” she added.   

While DP Shukla, a whistleblower from Singrauli district, alleged that wherever the Railway or  senior officials of the state government flagged irregularities to the district administration demanding a probe, the district collector appointed those officials for probe who were deeply involved in the corruption. 

“When the person involved in the corruption is assigned to check corruption, the outcome is evident,” he said.

Farmer-turned-whistleblower Shukla, and his 88-year-old father, are now facing three FIRs (first information reports) for raising the issue. 

What NewsClick's Findings Revealed ! 

When NewsClick was taking a gander at the records, it came to light that outsiders and phantom beneficiaries, with the help of officials, were cutting the major share of the compensation offered to land losers. In many cases, the names of outsiders were attached to the properties of individuals who had claimed compensation in crores.

Ramanuj Gujjar, one of the land losers of Dhonga village, next to Kursa, told Newsclick, "A middle man asked me to pay Rs 5 lakh to get an award of Rs 85 lakh for my 72 dismil [0.719 acres] agricultural land falling under the project. When I refused, my land was identified as non-agricultural land, and the compensation award was reduced to almost half ,from Rs 36 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.”

“I will go to the High Court,” he added.

Ramanuj Gujjar outside his ancestral property. [Photo - Kashif Kakvi]


Ramanuj Gujjar outside his ancestral property. [Photo - Kashif Kakvi]

In many letters sent to the state government and the district collectors of Sidhi and Singrauli  in the past three years, the Railways have pointed out discrepancies, but to no avail. In one of the letters, possessed by NewsClick, the Railways outlined that in Singrauli district, between three to 27 homes were shown in just one plot which were not there in the past surveys.

Not only that, the findings further reveal that the land owners have not only built houses on the areas proposed for laying tracks but also converted or transferred the land ownership misusing judicial stamp papers and violating the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 2013. The officials, however, approved their awards, undermining the merit of the judicial stamp and land acquisition Act norms. 

Besides the land owners, it seems that some bureaucrats are working hand- in-glove with the land mafia to cheat the Railways.

The findings also reveal that in Gidher village of Singrauli, officials showed seven phantom beneficiaries in a tribal’s ancestral land, showing fake homes of each. They were all non-tribals. The ‘fake claimants’ disappeared after the tribal man moved the High Court challenging it. 

According to laws, land belonging to tribal people can neither be bought nor be distributed among non-tribals without the collector’s permission.

Advocate Yogeshwar Prasad Tiwari, who took up many cases of alleged corruption in the land acquisition process to the lower as well as High Court said, “One can understand the degree of corruption in land acquisition in Sidhi and Singrauli by the fact that the Railway has taken land from over 15,000 land owners for the 541-km project, of  which  11,605 are just in both these districts.”

According to Madhya Pradesh Assembly records presented in July this year, there are 6,809 claimants in Sidhi and 4,796 in Singrauli district, which is much higher than the previous survey. “If the government launches a probe, a bunch of over 3,000 - 4,000 fake claimants would be found,” he said.

Similarly, in four land acquisition cases in Purva Jageer village, three/15 homes were shown in just a single property, which were not there in the previous surveys. 

In Gidher village, on a plot belonging to two tribal minor brothers, 27 homes were shown, and an amount of Rs 1.35 crore withdrawn as compensation. The land owners are unaware of this.

In Singrauli's Cheeva village, a PWD daily wage employee was awarded Rs 2.88 crore for giving away three homes spread over one acre for the project. A year later, he was found dead in mysterious circumstances. Almost four months after his passing away, out of Rs 2.88 crore awarded to him, a sum of Rs 2.48 crore was transferred to the three kin of a PWD sub-engineer Dadhich Singh, posted in the Deosar block of the Singrauli district. One of the beneficiaries is Lavalesh Singh, son of Dadhich Singh.

Interestingly, on May 18, 2022, Dadhich Singh was appointed as an assistant clerk of BJP’s upper house leader Ajay Pratap Singh, who fiercely raised the issue of rampant corruption in the project and alleged the involvement of some bureaucrats speaking to NewsClick

                           Sidhi DM's letter appointing Dadich Singh to a BJP MP's office


Sidhi DM's letter appointing Dadich Singh to a BJP MP's office

In several letters and in meetings with Madhya Pradesh's Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains, the Railways have raised the issue of corruption in land acquisition of the project, but to no avail. 

In the latest letter to the Chief Secretary Bains in July this year, possessed by NewsClick, the Railways accused the Singrauli district administration of evaluating or of surveying the proposed land in the absence of railway officials, suspecting corruption.

More Revelations

Each land acquisition case in both the districts has some startling revelations. NewsClick tracked down one of the interesting cases in Sidhi district that indicates the involvement of powerful people in the project.

In August 2019, when a collector in Sidhi district refused to sanction a compensation reward of Rs 2.5 crore for a patch of 50 dismil agricultural land named after Seeta Singh of Sidhi's Chandhwahi village, he faced the music. 

Based on his inspection, he dashed off a letter to the West Central Railway, Jabalpur, flagging discrepancies prevalent in the land acquisition cases in the district.  

A week after the letter, he was shunted off to the loop line. 

In the revised survey conducted in 2020-21, after the collector’s transfer, Seeta Singh was awarded Rs 5.12 lakh which was to be Rs 2.5 crore earlier.

In Khobha village, a patch of 4.16 acre [1.685 hectare] named after Shakuntala and her two sons, was acquired twice. In the first, a compensation of Rs 13.89 lakh was given, while in the second, it was bifurcated into 30 divisions and an amount of Rs 30 crore is estimated to have been awarded. 

These discrepancies in land acquisition increased the project’s budget to Rs 8,913 crore from Rs 6,672 crore in 2016, according to Railways’s data shared in the Upper House on August 11, this year, in reply to a question by Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

Manoj Kumar Agrawal, Chief Administrative Officer [Construction] of West Central Railway said, "Whenever we came across any complaint or discrepancies in the land acquisition, it was flagged to the state government and the district collectors. It's up to them to act. We did what we were supposed to."  

When asked whether the Railways was satisfied with the government’s action or not, he said, "We dashed off many letters but didn't get the follow up actions the state has taken against the complaints."  

When NewsClick reached out to Nikunj Shrivastava, Principal Secretary [Revenue], to know what action the department has taken over the Railways complaints, he said, “I’m unaware of any such complaints or letters as I have taken charge of the office recently. Hence, I can’t comment on it.”  

Newsclick also spoke to the local legislator and former minister Kamleshwar Patel. He said, “BJP leaders patted their backs when the Railways sanctioned the budget in 2016, but they are the ones who are deeply involved in the corruption. Misusing power, they succeeded in diverting the proposed route, unlawfully purchased lands despite the prohibition and cheated on the Railways.”

He further said, “On one hand, the fake beneficiaries have been getting compensation, but on the other, the real land holders are either running from pillar to post for compensation or getting the lesser reward than they deserve.”

He continued, “At a time when the Railways are pointing out irregularities, many people have moved the High Court challenging how the state government has given compensation to suspicious beneficiaries. In Kursa village, where the Railways asked not to pay the compensation in 27 cases, why were they paid? There is gross violation of the Land Acquisition Act 2013.”

Singrauli district collector Arun Kumar Parmar wasn’t available for the comment as he didn’t respond to the calls or messages despite repeated attempts spanning over a week.

An Anatomy of Railways' Complaint

The West Central Railway wrote over two dozen letters to various officials of the Madhya Pradesh government, flagging irregularities in the past three years. But it's important to highlight the two letters that expose rampant corruption in the project.

Swamped with the complaints of discrepancies in Singrauli district, on January 7, 2022, the Railway wrote a letter, possessed by NewsClick, to Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary [Revenue] and District collector flagging case-wise irregularities.

The letter says, “In Purva Jageer village of Deosar tehsil, seven homes were shown on half acer land [0.220 hectare] land of Brijesh Kumar and an award to the tune of Rs 2.06 crore was passed. In the previous surveys of the Revenue Department which was conducted on May 10, 2018 and June 2018, the property has a mud house, handpump, trees and a Pakka house named after Brijesh. Then how come seven other homes and their owners came up after the survey?”

The Railways asked, “When Brijesh is the only land owner, why Vijay Pandey and Umesh Dwivedi were paid Rs 39.47 lakh to each on his property. How did it happen?”

Speaking to Newsclick, the land owner, Brajesh Kumar, said, “Officials showed seven houses on my property identifying them as co-owner and sanctioned a compensation of Rs 2.6 crore. Seven outsiders were paid over Rs 1.60 crore and I received a payment of Rs 98 lakh in July 2023 only after I went to the High Court challenging the merit of seven co-owners.”

He further said, “I tried to raise the issue before the district collector, SDM and other officials concerned, but it fell on deaf ears. Thus, I moved to the High Court and the matter is sub-judice.”

The Railway’s letter further pointed out that in four other cases of Purva Jageer village, three/15 homes were shown in just a single property which were not in the previous list. 

Apart from Purva Jageer village, in 21 villages where lands are to be acquired for the project, three/27 homes were shown in a plot which is shocking.

At the end (of the letter), the Railways urged the land acquisition officers of Deosar and Chitrangi tehsil to declare the under-construction structures in villages such as Jhoko, Khamariya Kala, Kursa, Cheev, Balugarh, Amo, Khobha and Godwali villages, illegal, as they were constructed after prohibition under the Land Acquisition Act 2013. But they didn’t get any information about the action taken.

Besides, in Jhoko, Khamariya Kala and Kursa, where some lands are yet to be acquired, the landowners have constructed one or two storey buildings despite the prohibition, the letter says.

In reply to this letter, the Singrauli collector on April 6, 2022 dashed off a letter, possessed by NewClick, clarifying that a probe was conducted on November 23, 2020 by SDM and Railway officials in which Vijay Pandey and Umesh Dwivedi were shown papers of the property. And with the consent of landowner Brajesh Kumar, Rs 7,894,264 were equally transferred to their accounts.

The reply letter further says, as far as village Gidher is concerned, the joint probe team found 27 homes on one plot.

The district administration, however, admitted all the allegations levelled by the Railways, but claimed that railway officials were involved in the whole process of land acquisition and compensations were awarded under their observation. 

Notably, the reply letter has no clarification on how lands were transferred, diverted or bifurcated despite the prohibition, and how a patch of land can have 27 stakeholders who were not there in the previous survey. 

The letter also did not comment on the ongoing construction on the prohibited land or what actions the district administration has taken against those wrongdoers. 

Payment made to phantom claimants against Railways complaint 

In another important letter, dated February 3, 2021, possessed by NewsClick, the Railways highlighted glaring discrepancies in the land acquisition of Kursa village – visited by the reporter in July this year. 

After the Railways’ complaint of rampant corruption in 27 plots out of total 60 in the Kursa village, the Singrauli district collector formed a probe team of eight officials on November 23, 2020 which conducted an inspection two months later, on January 24, 2021.

Highlighting the findings of the probe team, the Railways dashed off a letter to the Singrauli district collector on February 3, 2021 – a week later.

The letter says: In all 27 plots, the probe team found non-residential constructions, hutments, kiosks and others in a dilapidated state. The walls of these houses are 3 to 5 feet high and four inches thick. None of these houses have windows, gates, roofs or others. Thus, these structures can’t be counted as houses. These structures were constructed in such a way to show multiple small houses in one house.

The Railways also pointed out, “Interestingly, the land owners of these plots are locals but the homes belong to the outsiders. In one case, the land belongs to Ashok Kumar Kumhar, but 19 homes which were shown his property belong to outsiders. Against 19 homes, a compensation of Rs 6.59 crore has been awarded to all the home owners.” 

In all 27 plots of Kursa village, between 2/17 houses were shown in just one plot.

The letter concludes that these structures were built by outsiders, with the land owners’ nod, in a bid to unlawfully take compensation from the Railway by violating Land Acquisition act - 2013.

Thus, except the ancestral and residential homes, the awards passed on those lands should be cancelled else the Railway would incur a heavy loss. Besides, these outsiders also indulge in construction of homes in yet to be acquired land despite the prohibition, it said.

The Railways did not receive the reply of this letter. 

According to Madhya Pradesh Assembly data of July this year, the state government has paid Rs 7.02 crore compensation to the claimants for acquiring 12.21 acres while the payment of Rs 1.03 crore is in the pipeline. 

Sources said that the district administration made payment to those ‘suspicious beneficiaries, where the probe team had found irregularities and had urged the state government to cancel their compensation awards. 

“Even though the report suggested withholding the payment of suspicious plots and outsiders, the Revenue Department approved and made the payment,” said DP Shukla, the whistleblower.  

Sidhi Collector Transferred 

Sidhi district collector Abhishek Singh’s case further put light on the alleged corruption in the land acquisition in Sidhi and Singrauli districts in the project.

In a letter, [Below] he wrote to Deputy Chief Engineer, West Central Railway, on August 1, 2019, Singh pointed out, “I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that unethical processes were opted out to acquire land for the project with the involvement of local and railway employees.”

Sidhi DM’s letter to WCR alleging corruption.


Sidhi DM’s letter to WCR alleging corruption.

The letter further says, “In a case of land acquisition, I found that with an aim to get a bigger amount and job from the railway, a patch of land was cut into small pieces, and tin-shed structures were shown as furnished houses. I was shocked to see that the officials awarded Rs 2.5 crore to such a tin-shed house. It also has the signatures of Railway Engineers in the evaluation.”

A week after the letter, Singh was shunted out and given a side posting at the State Election Commission office. 

Requesting anonymity, an official who worked with Singh, told Newsclick, “When a senior officer sought sanction of Rs 2.5 for a patch of land, he wished to see the property and found that it’s an agricultural land and tin-shed homes were erected on it. When he turned down the application, a powerful IAS officer of the secretariat tried to persuade him for almost three days to clear the amount. But when he didn’t budge from his decision, he was transferred.”

Singh reportedly found irregularities in the land acquisition of Seeta Singh, a Chandhwahi village of Sidhi. For half an acre of her agriculture land [0.44 acre] with a tin-shed house, she was awarded Rs 2.5 crore. Nonetheless, in the revised survey conducted after the collector's objection, the land was awarded 5.12 lakh.

PWD Employee Found Dead, Money Goes to his Boss' Family 

The two homes and a farm constructed on 1.03 acres of Rammanohar Dwivedi [55], a resident of Cheeva village and daily wager at PWD Singrauli, was notified to be acquired by the Revenue department on behalf of Railways for the project, according to a notification in 2017.

Against the evaluation of his properties, the department awarded Rs 2.88 crore on July 9, 2020.

According to his son Rudranarayan Dwivedi, his father ran pillar to post for almost a year to get the financial relief transferred to his bank account, but it came to naught. On July 7, 2021, almost a year after the award was announced, he died in mysterious circumstances.

The police concluded: “He was upset after his son married without his permission, and he committed suicide.”

Months after his death, an affidavit surfaced with Dwivedi’s signature which suggests that he had transferred one-fourth of the house to three people – Purnima Singh, Lavlesh Ratan Singh and Vindu Singh – the kin of his senior and PWD sub-Engineer Dadhich Singh, posted in Deosar tehsil, alleged his son Rudranarayan. 

Based on the affidavit, which did not have dates, out of Rs 2.88 crore, the department transferred Rs 2.48 crore to their accounts omitting Rammohan and his son’s name.

Lavlesh, who received Rs 1.7 crore in his account, is a son of Dadhich Singh, while two others were his family members, alleged Dwivedi’s son Rudranarayan, who made complaints to government investigating agencies, including Economic Offences Wing, to probe the case, but did not get any reply.

When he filed a petition in the Jabalpur High Court in August 2022, a few months later, he reportedly received the remaining Rs 40 lakh which was left after distributing it to three other stakeholders.

Speaking over a phone call Rudranarayan alleged, “PWD’s engineer Dadhich Singh, whose family members got the money, was my father’s senior and often visited our home. They killed my father and hung him in a tree to swallow the compensation amount. They also tricked the medical and police reports to prove his death as a suicide.”

In the writ petition sub-judice at the High Court, accessed by NewsClick, Rudranarayan alleged, “After father’s death, Akash Singh, the land acquisition officer, Deosar tehsil and PWD’s sub-engineer Dadhich Singh colluded with each other taking undue benefit with manipulation added the name of his family member in the award list and withdraw the award amount Rs. 2.48 Cr and remains out is about 40.0 lakhs which is not paid by the officials."

The petition further says, “In the aforesaid fact and circumstances, it is very clearly evident that both the officials have committed gross illegalities and usurped most of the amount of compensation of the petitioner. The petitioner has submitted representation but no one heard the voice of the petitioner and the petitioner suffers with great irreparable loss, therefore, petitioner is seeking indulgence of this Hon'ble Court to take strict action against both the officials and direct to pay all amount to the petitioner.”

Speaking over the call, his counsel Mahesh Shukla said, “After the matter is put up in the Court, the officials disbursed Rs 40 lakh to my client’s account.”

“As far as the case is concerned, the High Court has issued notice to the state government to reply,” he added.

Non-tribals shown as co-owner of tribal’s ancestral land

For 1.75 acre [0.712 hectare] of agriculture land of Shankerlal Baiga [45], a resident of Gidher village, falls under Bargava Police station of Singrauli district, was awarded Rs 72.23 lakh showing seven constructed homes on it.

Later, on December 31, 2021, Baiga received a notice from the district administration saying Rs 10.30 lakh has been awarded for your land. When inquired, he found names of seven unidentified non-tribals beneficiaries on his land and the total award sanctioned is pegged to Rs 72.23 lakh.

Miffed with this, he filed a writ petition in the Jabalpur High Court and subsequently the court asked for a probe report from the revenue as well as the police departments. Before both the departments could submit their reports to the Court, the Singrauli collector, on October 10, 2022, issued an order to pay the entire amount to the applicant, dropping all seven names.

Baiga’s counsel Yogeshwar Prasad Tiwari told NewsClick, “It was agricultural land and the award should be less than Rs 10 lakh. But the officials involved in the land acquisition mischievously showed agriculture land as fully constructed homes and seven phantom beneficiaries were attached to the property as owners of each home,” 

“As the Court ordered an enquiry and notified the same to the district administration, before the probe could be completed, the district administration ordered to pay all Rs 72.23 lakh to his account,” he said adding that the phantom beneficiaries vanished into thin air when the court ordered the probe.

The Singrauli Police inquiry, conducted on the High Court’s directives on October 9, 2022, concluded that the land only belongs to Shankerlal Baiga and there is only one home constructed on it. A copy of the probe report is with Newsclick.  

Interestingly, the probe report has not been submitted to the Court, according to Baiga’s counsel. 

Curious case of Amo village!

In one Amo village of Singrauli district, where the Railways plan to acquire 33.69 acres [13.638 hectares] from over 41 land owners, and the district administration notified it on October 12, 2017, a patch of land belonging to the family of sitting BJP parliamentarian from Sidhi, Riti Pathak, was left out owing to "typing error". 

Three years later, in two orders issued dated October 27, 2020 and December 15, 2020, when the district administration notified the rest of the land which “were to be acquired but mistakenly left out owing to typing error,” 0.44 acres [0.180 hectares] of land had one owner, Mahendra - uncle of the parliamentarian.  

But in the next notification issued on December 23, 2022, under Section 19 of the Land Acquisition Cct, the small patch of land has eight separate entities.  

"To favour the parliamentarian, in Amo village, the district administration 'erroneously' left a plot [number 341] associated with the parliamentarian’s ancestral family. When the 'left-out lands' were notified on December 23, 2022, less than half of an acre found eight claimants who are uncle, aunties, sisters, brother, cousin and nephew of hers," said Shukla, the whistleblower from Singrauli.

Hitting back at the allegation, Pathak told Newsclick, "Yes, that was my ancestral home but no one can accuse me for my involvement in corruption. I have been a parliamentarian for the last two terms but none can accuse me of corruption.”  

She said, “Those who suspect my involvement should complain to the district administration and a committee should be formed to check the merit of the accusations.”

The compensation award is yet to be awarded.

Shukla, a farmer associated with the farmer wing of Congress, became a whistleblower after the district administration paid Rs 1.5 crore to five ‘phantom’ co-owners of his one acre land in Khobha and Chheva village of Singrauli district. "I wasn't alone. When I saw thousands of people were duped in a similar way, I began to dig in and found that stamp papers were faked to cheat on the Railways and landholders against the laws," he said.

On his complaint to the Inspector General, Registration and Stamp, the Department initiated a three-member inquiry last year. The probe team found discrepancies in issuing stamp papers, which were misused for land acquisition. After the probe team's report, the department cancelled the license of Singrauli’s stamp vendor Jarrar Khan in June 2023.

Not just that, Shukla filed several complaints to the Economic Offences Wing, Central Bureau of Investigation, Lokayukt, Chief Secretary and others, alleging rampant corruption in the project and the involvement of bureaucrats. But all fell on deaf ears. 

Shukla, also among dozens of land losers who have been duped in the land acquisition of the project, has approached the Jabalpur High Court demanding justice.

"Three FIRs have been registered against me and my 88-year-old father in Jiyawan police station of the district under IPC sections for constantly raising the issues on various platforms. Fear is looming over me,” he told NewsClick.  

Row over jobs in Rewa halted the wheels 

In Rewa and Sidhi, many  land losers are on strike and forcefully withheld the working of the project demanding jobs. 

According to a reply in Parliament dated …, the Railway admitted that it has given jobs to 1581 land losers including 860 jobs in Sidhi and 293 in Rewa. But referring to the 2019 guidelines, the Railway refused to give jobs which triggered the controversy.

According to Railways’ internal report, the work for the construction of rail line Rewa has been on hold since March this year.     

[Copy editing assistance - Arup Chakraborty] 

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