Nalasopara: After land grabbed by 'mafia', tribals say 'we will kill ourselves'

Updated: 19 October, 2020 07:55 IST | Faizan Khan |

Four tribals from Palghar district allegedly cheated by builders and their associates, who convinced them to sell their properties, but never gave them the Rs 25 crore they had promised

The tribal villagers, (from Left) Sunil Babu Pagi, Madhu Ratan Pagi, Vishnu Shankar Pagi, Ravi Shirad Pagi and a relative
The tribal villagers, (from Left) Sunil Babu Pagi, Madhu Ratan Pagi, Vishnu Shankar Pagi, Ravi Shirad Pagi and a relative

Four tribals' fertile agricultural lands in Nalasopara have been grabbed by alleged land mafia, who, after years of gaining their trust, convinced them to sell their properties. But never paid the promised amount of Rs 25 crore. To sell the lands, the accused convinced the tribals to change the title of their properties to non-tribal from tribal, as tribal lands cannot be sold.

Not just that, Sunil Babu Pagi, 42, and the three others ran from pillar to post, and only after knocking on the doors of the high court, the Nalasopara police registered an FIR on September 16 taking into consideration all the relevant sections of the IPC and the Atrocities Act. Tarun Bharat, a trustee of a Marathi daily, builder Pradeep Gupta, his brother Anil Gupta who is a partner in Sai Rydam Realtors Pvt Ltd, and his associates Sudhakar Mhatre, Ramesh Vyas and a few others have been named in the FIR filed last month.

None arrested

However, none of the accused have been arrested yet. mid-day has learnt that the accused are acting fast to secure interim relief from the court and seeking an order for 'no coercive action' against them.

Their land that has been allegedly grabbed. Pics/Hanif Patel
Their land that has been allegedly grabbed. Pics/Hanif Patel

"Sunil and his family members — Vishnu Shankar Pagi, Madhu Ratan Pagi, Ravi Shirad Pagi — were approached by agents Mharte and Vyas between 2005 and 2006. The agents told them that they will get Rs 25 crore if they change their land's status to non-tribal. Innocent and illiterate, they got easily convinced," said advocate Sachin Pawar, the victims' counsel. Pawar said the 5.5-acre lands that Pagis lost have the market value of Rs 80 crore.

They converted their properties to non-tribal under Section 36(A) of Maharashtra Land Revenue Code (MLRC), 1966, Pawar said. They even got the victims to open accounts in Bank of Maharashtra. But Mharte and Vyas gave their mobile numbers in tribals' Know Your Customer form, said Pawar. "Also, the accused kept the passbooks and cheque books signed by the tribals," he added.

Pawar said, "The accused sought government's permission to sell the land, following which the gift deed was executed with the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC).

The VVCMC issued a Development Rights Certificate (DRC) against the gift deed. Collector granted sanction to sell the DRC in the open market. Hemant Patil purchased the DRC [from the Pagis] for R6 crore [the money never reached the Pagis] and sold the DRC further to several other parties." Police said they are investigating who bought the DRC and how much they pay Patil.

According to the victims' petition, Mhatre and Vyas, without the victims' knowledge and permission, created rights in the land in the name of Pradeep and Anil. During the transfer of the properties' title, the accused used the victims' bank accounts to make the payment of Rs 2.87 crore as nazrana [premium] to the government, Pawar said. On paper, the transactions were made in the name of the victims, who had no idea about anything.

Pagis' struggle to file plaint

The Pagis learnt that their land had been snatched and they have not even been paid the rightful amount when one day they went to the field and saw VVCMC employees there.

The victims approached the Nalasopara police, but got no help. Then, with the help of social activists, Pagis sent a letter to the chief minister, home minister, collector and superintendent of police of Palghar district on July 22, 2020. But none of them took note of their complaint.

They finally filed a writ petition in the high court on August 7 with the help of social activists. Following which, an officer from Nalasopara police station spoke to Pagis and collected all the relevant documents to file a complaint on August 16.

Also Read: 'Government offers us worm-infested rice because we are poor,' Bhiwandi tribal villager

'Laundered money'

"The accused have committed offences under SC/ST Act, evaded stamp duty and laundered money. The matter must be thoroughly probed and accused must be brought to book," he said. An elderly family member, Nanubai Pagi, said, "The condition of our family is so bad that we all have to work as labourers to meet two square meals."
Another member, Manjula Pagi, said, "I go to nearby bungalows to work as a house help. But, during the pandemic, I hardly make any money. People give me only R50 for half a day's work."

'They threatened us'

"I used to earn R500 for cleaning well in May but there is no work now. Our field has been illegally grabbed and when we registered an FIR, their agents came and threatened us to withdraw the case. I don't know what to do now. They are very rich people and influential too," said Ravi.

When approached, Pradeep Gupta told mid-day he has been falsely implicated in the matter. "My name has been falsely added to the FIR and I have no role in the alleged land scam. I have approached the high court to quash my name from the FIR," said Gupta.

'Victims can approach me'

Newly appointed Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar commissioner Sadanand Date said, "This matter has just come to my knowledge. I will look into the case files to see its legal status. The victims can approach me."

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First Published: 19 October, 2020 07:39 IST

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