News Karnataka
Monday, January 30 2023

Massive land encroachment in Mangalore University: Who is at fault?

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Mangaluru: Vivekananda Paniyala, Member of the Syndicate of Mangalore University and Advocate practising in the High Court has sent a letter to Kishore Kumar C. K., Registrar of Mangalore University, requesting action against illegal encroachers and land mafia who have encroached on public land belonging to the Mangalore University in Konaje Village of Mangalore Taluk and Ashoknagara area on Saturday March 5.

In the letter, Vivekananda Paniyala has alleged that around 50 acres of land belonging to the University has been encroached by land grabbers. He has also mentioned that unauthorised structures have been built on the encroached land with the support of the University officials. “University has constructed the compound wall by discretely “facilitating” the said encroachment, which clearly amounts to “breach of public trust” as well as “dereliction of duty” by the public servants,” he stated.

Paniyala also stated that Mangalore University recently had the entire property surveyed by engaging a private firm and paying huge fees. However, the said survey report is yet to be presented to the Syndicate and urged to submit the same before Syndicate or to the public. He has urged the University to submit the copy of action taken to remove the encroachment, various reports, documents, correspondence that they had with the authorities on the encroached property. He sought a response from the university within a week and failing of the same will escalate the matter to the notice of the Governor, Higher Education Department and other authorities. He further mentioned that he may file a Public Interest Litigations (PIL) seeking legal action.

When asked about the allegation of 50 acres of University land being encroached, Vice-Chancellor (VC) Professor P. S. Yadapadithaya said, “It has not been established yet. On record, we have 353 acres. Prior to my appointment as VC, the previous administration conducted a small survey with the help of the Deputy Registrar Prabhakar and a private survey firm. Although they did not submit the report, they claimed that 7 acres of land had been encroached upon.”

He further said, “When I brought this issue to the Syndicate, they said we needed to undertake an authentic official survey at the Taluk office level by the government or surveyors appointed by the government. We tried to contact the empanelment but received no response. Following this, the Syndicate said that they had hired some private surveyors and that they would come and do the work. One member of the Syndicate took the initiative to speed things up. I advised them to do not only a land survey but also a drone survey, which should be done in an official and legitimate manner.”

The VC went on to say that the report will then be presented at the next Syndicate meeting. They will analyse the data and decide whether to accept or reject the survey results. “Based on this we will write to the Department of Higher Education, as well as another letter to the Governor. Then, depending on their advice, we will move forward. This must be rectified as soon as possible, as it should have no negative impact on society.”

To a question about why the authorities failed to notice this issue and take action, he said, “Professor S. Gopal, one of the earlier Vice-Chancellors, took the initiative to build walls around the campus. It was a great move but due to encroachment, it was halted in the middle. Now, the important thing is that after this has been proven through an official survey, I will build walls around the university in the clear area. Further encroachment could have been prevented if they had built a wall earlier. As per the survey, we need to finish the incomplete wall in the clear region and erect temporary fences in the disputed area.”

When asked if there was any response from the University’s end, Vivekananada Paniyala said that he has received response from the Registrar. “Thanks for the information provided by you with respect to the land grabbing issue. Necessary legal action will be initiated in due course in accordance to the law,” was the response.

Reacting to the VC’s claim that the 50 acres of land has not encroached, Paniyala said, “The University has appointed an agency to conduct the survey of the land recently (2021) and a sum of Rs. 5 lakh was paid as fee. The survey exercise has been completed and they are aware of how much land has been encroached. Now, the statement that it will be further surveyed by the State Government agency is something that is misleading. Already the University has conducted the survey, where is that report? Why is that the university paid the agency?”

He further explained that the report should be made public, or at the very least made available to the Syndicate. According to the Karnataka Act of 2000, the Syndicate is the Supreme body and its decision is final. The University is governed by the Syndicate, which is a 15-member organisation that serves as the supreme council. The Syndicate has eight members, two of whom represent the Governor and the rest are government officials. Deans, college principals, and others are among the other members.

“Since the report was not presented, he (VC) must either provide an explanation or release the information to the public through the media. Why didn’t they take action against it when they built the compound wall ten years ago? Everyone has conveniently closed their eyes since they do not want to precipitate the matter because it might involve some kind of strong resistance,” he added.

In response to the VC urging for aerial survey, Paniyala said that aerial survey is not the method to understand the boundary line. For assessing natural disasters, an aerial survey is ideal. This survey must be conducted on land rather than in the air. They must manually measure from one survey stone using tape or chains. “You will only be able to get a video or a picture from an aerial survey, which is neither accurate nor decisive of the boundary line to determine if any encroachment has occurred. So, this is a half-hearted approach” he opined.

Paniyala went on to say that he is going to write a letter to the Deputy Commissioner requesting him to identify any poor/homeless people who might have occupied the Government and give them alternative sites if possible. “My intention is for the University’s property to be recovered. If there are poor or innocent people who might have purchased from the original encroachers or those who are shelterless people who might have gone and built some small shed, do not overnight destroy it. Give them at least a year or two, but the property should be evacuated,” he said.

He also mentioned that “I am approaching this in a systematic and official manner. I would want to visit and request a site inspection from the University on March 11 or two days later. I also want to get a status update as well.”

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Reshma B.

Reshma Babu, a young Postgraduate in Mass Communication and Journalism from St. Aloysius College, Mangalore University, utilises her considerable learned journalistic knowledge and inherent story writing and sub-editing abilities to add value to the company’s media brands and the editorial team. All dimensions of human interaction are her prime focus.

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