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Ground control

Ground control

Author: Ambreesh Mishra
Publication: India Today
Date: September 8, 2008
URL: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=69&id=14075&Itemid=1&sectionid=24

Introduction: A polio-stricken tehsildar in Madhya Pradesh is on a mission to free government land from the clutches of encroachers.

He goes boldly where even the able-bodied men fear to tread. For Mukul Gupta, the disability of lower limbs is hardly a handicap when it comes to discharging his official duty-as a tehsildar recovering land illegally being held by the high and mighty.

That he does without fear in Gwalior-the urban heart of the crime-ridden region where dacoits loom and gun culture booms-makes his a rare feat.

Within four months from September 2007, he extricated 320 bigha of urban and rural land in the city from the clutches of powerful politicians and moneybags.

When the polio-stricken anthropology postgraduate from Allahabad University joined the subordinate state Administrative Service in 1995, Gupta's aim was simply to excel in a world where disability is looked down upon.

Starting from Yashwant Nagar in the backwaters of Etawah district, Uttar Pradesh, wasn't easy, but he still made it to the Allahabad University.

Demonstrating the power of a naib tehsildar-which he was at the beginning of his service-he uncovered a Rs 8-crore scam in the rural branches of four banks in Shajapur district where loans to farmers were disbursed on bogus loan books (rin pustika).

Some time after being posted to Gwalior, Gupta came across a report by a committee headed by the then commissioner of land records, Manoj Shri-vastava. Land worth crores of rupees was encroached upon by bigwigs from the world of politics, bureaucracy and business.

It is due to this, brokers and buyers now check whether the property they are buying is mentioned in the report because it can invite stern action, since a precedent has been set. When the real estate was booming last year, a plot would exchange hands a few times on bayana (advance payment for holding it).

However, the entire buyer-seller chain was forced to refund, once it became clear that the plot figured in the report, in the fear of Gupta taking action.

While most tehsildars-who form the fulcrum of revenue land management in any state-would have left the report alone, Gupta decided to act.

For four months, he pursued cases relentlessly, ensuring the land was restored to the Government's control. This is not all, the city's public sector banks feted him in 2006-07 for the maximum amount recovered of their loans from attachment of property by any tehsildar in the state. He recovered more than Rs 3 crore over three years and all his recoveries, before or since, add up to over Rs 6 crore today.

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