Monday, April 27, 2015

Want to buy a hill or lake? Come to Faridabad, Gurgaon

Dipak K Dash, TNN | Apr 17, 2015
Gurgaon, Haryana

Successive governments have maintained a blind eye towards illegal mining that is going on unabated in hills adjoining Gurgaon and Faridabad.

NEW DELHI: It may sound bizarre, but you can actually own a dense forest, a lake such as Damdama or Dhauj, a hill top or a drain in the Aravalis of Haryana. Even a part of Mangar Bani, the largest surviving sacred grove in the NCR. That's because a major portion of this ecological hotspot, which was once common land, has been privatized in the past 30-35 years.

Former revenue officials told TOI that lured by real estate players, several gram sabhas were allowed to convert common land, including forested hills and water bodies, into private properties. Legal loopholes in the Punjab Village Common Lands Act of 1961 were used to facilitate these transfers.

Private players guided and drove the process, attracted by the prospect of picking up huge patches of land next to Delhi for a pittance. Once the undivided common lands were privatized and sold, these were then partitioned into plots etc by a misuse of the Consolidation Act.

These transfers were not good in law and can be challenged, the officials added.

"Uncultivable tracts outside habitable areas were traditionally kept as panchayat land, meant for common use such as grazing. Later, the gram sabhas passed resolutions to convert them into another form of collective property called shamlat deh, giving villagers the right to sell these lands to individuals," said a retired revenue official, who was posted in Gurgaon and Faridabad when private developers were making inroads into the area.

Retired IAS officials, who were posted in these districts in the past two decades, said private developers and land sharks first approached the gram sabhas to move such a resolution.

"After the resolution was passed, there would be no objection from the local level administrative officer including block development officer and even the district collector. So, subsequently, villagers got ownership over the undivided land, which they later sold to private players. In many cases the entire process was funded by private parties," said a formal official.

State government officials said the local revenue officials played a key role in this entire exercise. After villagers got the right to sell their share of the common land, revenue officials even recorded different khasras in their names. "Then they sold these parcels to private players. But the biggest problem for the present land owners is to get possession of the land to start their projects," said a serving official, who did not wish to be named.

However, a few retired revenue officials who served in the area felt that all such privatization and fragmentation of land were illegal since land laws stipulate that common land cannot be used for any other purpose.

They added that even the Supreme Court has held that all panchayat lands must be returned to the gram sabha and cannot be used for any other purpose. Several rulings, including the Jagpal Singh judgment of January 2012, have made this clear.

Villages with non-agricultural privatized common lands include Mangar, Kot, Mewla, Maharajpur and others in Faridabad, and Raisena and Roj ka Gujjar in Gurgaon. In a few villages such as Bandhwari and Ghata in Gurgaon, privatized common lands have been returned to panchayat/government ownership.

Real estate firms have built up large land banks in these areas. There are reportedly name and benami holdings of real estate companies.

A first: UT comes out with data on panchayat land

Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 26

Now, it will not be easy to encroach upon panchayat land in the UT villages.

In a first of its kind initiative, the Chandigarh Administration has consolidated the data on total panchayat land and its existing land use at the site. Officials on conducting a detailed field survey of the panchayat land measuring around 560 kanals found that 33 kanals of land was under encroachments and spread across nine villages.

Following the survey of all specific land details, the UT had started the process of getting land freed from encroachments, said Danish Ashraf, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), East, who along with two trainee IAS officers, Parth Gupta and Kriti Garg, have carried out the detailed exercise.

Efforts are being made to digitally scan the revenue record to check if the Rural Department is keeping an eye on the encroachments being made. In the past, during demolition drives it was found that the panchayat land and other vacant land of different governnmemt departments were encroached upon in nine villages — Dhanas, Khuda Lahora, Khuda Jassu, Khuda Alisher, Kaimbwala, Behlana, Daria, and Maulai Jagran.

The total land under use such as government buildings, area under ponds, religious places, cremation ground and roads has also been given in the details. The Khuda Jassu and Khuda Lahora have the largest chunk of panchayat land, measuring 150 kanals and 130 kanals, respectively.

Following a presentation of the consolidation report to the UT Adviser, the officials have been asked to also come out with booklet on the information and work further on the subject so that the information remains in the public domain.

Already faced with meagre resources, gram panchayats of different villages in the UT had been in the past finding it difficult to free their prime land from encroachers. Running in several crores, the panchayats can generate their own resources by leasing out the land for commercial activity.

Sources in the Chandigarh Administration said that a number of encroachments were inside the ‘lal dora’ of respective village.

Few years ago, a study conducted by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) had revealed that prime chunks of land were under encroachments.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bill on land ownership tabled

Tribune News Service
Shimla, April 2

Health and Revenue Minister Kaul Singh Thakur presented the Himachal Pradesh Village Common Lands Vesting and Utilisation (Amendment) Bill 2015 in the Assembly today which would provide the ownership of land to those who had been in its possession for the last four decades. 

About the Bill

  •      The HP Village Common Lands Vesting and Utilisation (Amendment) Bill 2015 will provide the ownership of land to those who have been possessing it for the past four decades

      The government had received several representations from these lessees "Chakotadhars" and and amendment to the Himachal Pradesh Village Common Lands Vesting and Utilisation Act, 1974, was necessary to provide ownership of land to these people. They had been given land by Gram Panchayats as per the Punjab Village Common Land Regulation Act, 1961.
     The number of such lessees in 981 in Kangra, 184 in Kangra and 36 each in Una and Hamipur districts. These persons had sought ownership of land on which they had their houses, cowsheds, farms and orchards.

     A Bill to amend the Shimla Road Users and Pedestrians (Public Safety and Convenience) Act, 2007 was also tabled in the Assembly by the Chief Minister. This amendment would empower Assistant Sub-Inspectors for checking vehicles and compounding of offences on sealed and restricted roads. Earlier, the powers were given only to Executive Magistrate or police officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector and the amendment is being made in view of shortage of police officers and increasing number of vehicles.