Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rs 50-cr shamlat land passed off as pvt land

Role of panchayat dept officials under scanner

Aman Sood I Tribune News Service I Patiala, April 30


Panchayat members show the 180-acre village 

common land at Arno in Patiala district on Sunday. 
Tribune photo: Rajesh Sachar
Arno village in Shutrana block of the district is battling to save 180-acre village common land (shamlat) from being transferred to some persons, allegedly due to complicity between land sharks and some officials of the Rural Development and Panchayat Department.

The state government has promised to probe the matter and establish the role of officials, including an IAS officer, “who acted against the department’s interest, days before retirement” and allegedly passed off the land worth over Rs 50 crore as “private”.

Members of the Arno panchayat alleged that the land was labelled as “disputed”, “not falling under the definition of shamlat as per Section 2(G) of the Punjab Village Common Lands Regulation Act, 1961”. They claimed that a Joint Development Commissioner, who retired in February, gave the decision in favour of some individuals without giving a hearing to the panchayat.

Amarjeet Kaur, counsel for the panchayat, said the then Joint Development Commissioner and his staff had adjourned the case on the scheduled date of hearing, without informing her about the next date.

“Days before the officer retired, the case was abruptly decided against us. We approached the then Financial Commissioner and got a stay on the order,” she alleged. Panchayat Secretary Rajinder Singh said, “A high-level probe is needed as these persons are not even depositing the lease money, causing losses to the state,” he said.

“In 2014-15, the land had fetched Rs 30 lakh in lease money from the individuals who claimed ownership. However, a few village residents, claiming to be migrants from Pakistan during Partition, said they were the owners and had initially taken the land on lease. We have documents to show that the land is shamlat, but the department officials have given us no opportunity to be heard,” said sarpanch Ramesh Kumar.

Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said he would order a probe by a senior officer to find out whether departmental officials had connived with land sharks.