Chandigarh: In a shocking fraud committed in connivance with revenue officials, the Indian Air Force’s emergency airfield (Jahaz Ground) in Ferozepur Cantonment has been sold off to private persons.
Spread over 15 acres and worth several crores of rupees, the airfield is a part of the 982 acres of prime land acquired by the British government in 1939 for use by the Royal Air Force during World War II. Later, the Indian Air Force used the same airfield in the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars. The vast Airfield grounds were used for camouflaging weaponry.
Presently physical control of the ‘Jahaz Ground’ is with the Army, while operational and administrative control remains with the IAF’s Halwara air base authorities in Ludhiana district.
In 1997, Usha Ansal, now a resident of Delhi sold off the 15-acre airfield to five private persons using a general power of attorney (GPA) executed by her brother-in-law Madan Mohan Lal who earlier resided in Ferozepur. But Lal died in 1991. Hence, the GPA became infructuous the same year and could not be used for any transaction.
In 1964 during Lal Bahadur Shastris’ government, a scheme was launched to appoint crop managers on all vacant lands in the Cantonment areas in the country to increase foodgrain production when India faced a food crisis in the 60s. The crop managers were required to cultivate the land and pass over foodgrain to the central government.
Madan Mohan Lal and his brother Tek Chand were appointed crop managers for 15 acres in Ferozepur Cantt. But the scheme was discontinued after the green revolution, and all crop managers of 982 acres handed over the land to the Army.
Though the revenue records, including the ‘Jamabandi’ clearly mention the Army owned the land, the then sub-registrar ignored the crucial document while registering the sale deeds executed in 1997.
The new “owners,” Dara Singh, Mukhtiar Singh, Jagir Singh, Surjit Kaur and Manjit Kaur, also managed to get ‘girdauris’ (A revenue official’s field visit report showing the status of any land) done in their names, implying that they were the cultivators and their crops were standing on the otherwise “concrete airfield.”
Armed with registries and girdauris, the new owners moved the office of the then SDM D.P.S Kharbanda to get the 15-acre prime land mutated (Intkal) in their names in the revenue records. Despite the ‘tehsildar’s’ advice that the sale deeds do not seem to be above board, the SDM allowed the recording of mutations in the name of 5 private persons in 2001.
The matter came to light when the five purchasers moved the civil court in 2008 by filing a suit for possession seeking directions to the Army to vacate their land. The fraudsters alleged they had peaceful possession of the land since 1997, but in 2006 the Army forcibly dispossessed them.
The Air Force wrote to the Financial Commissioner of Revenue (FCR) and Deputy Commissioner (DC) complaining about the fraud and demanded legal action against revenue department officers. But nothing has been done to date.
DC Rajesh Dhiman said that an inquiry was underway, and they were looking for a pre-partition notification issued by the British after acquiring the 982 acres of land. It will help to get a better understanding of the problem.
But P. P. Singh, a former Tehsildar, explains that the administration need not search for an old notification when it is clear that Madan Mohan Lal died in 1991 and his GPA was used in 1997. Moreover, the ‘jamabandi’ shows that the Army continues to be in possession of the ‘Jahaz’ ground for a long time.
P.P. Singh further says the revenue officials can also check whether Madan Mohan Lal’s name was mentioned in the ‘jamabandi’ at the time of giving GPA to Usha Ansal.
He said that the fraud perpetrated by the private persons in connivance with revenue department officials requires the registration of a criminal case against all of them.