Sunday, June 26, 2011

News Article: Planners welcome SC order on village land

TNN Feb 1, 2011, 01.41am IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court's order terming the sale of village common land for private or commercial use as illegal could be a shot in the arm for the city. Delhi, say urban planners, is slowly losing not only its green land to commercial use but also facing an increasing threat of water shortage - thanks mainly to disappearing water bodies.

The land in question is the gram sabha land. This land, say experts, is the common land in villages, which mainly comprise fields of play or water bodies that replenish water table. Over the past decades though, the lack of proper guidelines has meant that village land - whether agricultural or common - has been encroached upon rampantly. Places like Shahpur Jat, Hauz Khas, Zamrudpur, Kotla Mubarakpur, Mehrauli and many others have seen unauthorized residential and commercial activity, which were ultimately regularized by the government.

Says AK Jain, former commissioner (planning), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), "Traditionally, buildings in lal dora areas (village land) are exempted from approval of building plans. The MCD, which manages this land, has allowed buildings for bonafide residential use to be built without seeking plans from planning bodies like the MCD or DDA."

The reality though is that unauthorized construction, commercial in use as well, has become rampant in these areas. Over 1,600 colonies have sprung up - which are now headed for regularization by the government. Political pressure as well as complex law and order situation has meant that existing constructions in these areas get a stamp of authenticity. With Delhi having 360 villages - 135 urban and over 200 rural villages, the pressure is intense in these areas for more constructions. This has led to the government declaring an "extended" lal dora area: ostensibly to accommodate the increasing population in the villages. On the other hand, the government has maintained that loss of farming land is justification for selling the land to non-farmers.

Planners say the conversion of village land into private or commercial havens has turned the city into an unplanned ghetto. Says Jain, "But how practical it is to make the SC order retrospective cannot be answered now. There's a huge amount of gram sabha land that has been subverted into private or commercial use."

Associated Article

Clear public lands, Supreme Court tells states

Monday, May 2, 2011
By Rakesh Bhatnagar | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

The Supreme Court has directed all state governments, the Centre and Union Territories to evict illegal encroachers from public lands in villages across the country and restore them to village bodies.

It said the land mafia, in connivance with the political leadership and revenue officials, has deprived the poor of land meant for schools, ponds, dispensaries and community services. A bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra directed chief secretaries of all the states to file their responses by first week of May of steps they had taken to implement its directive. Expressing concern over the “blatant illegalities” perpetrated in the villages, the judges directed the authorities to raze all constructions, including private houses, built on illegally occupied public land.

Declaring Gram Sabha as the owner of the land, the judges refused to regularise the “illegalities’’ because it was Gram Sabha land for the common use of villagers. It lambasted the Punjab government for its letter of September 2007 that permitted regularization of massive chunks of land in different villages. In case such orders were passed by any other state government, they must be “ignored” as they are illegal, the judges ruled.

Giving the genesis of the concept of village land, the bench said “We wish to say that our ancestors were not fools. They knew there might be droughts or water shortages in some years for some or the other reason, and water was also required for cattle to drink and bathe in,’’ the court said, adding that making landfills of ponds and erecting buildings on vacant public land, villagers facemany problems including water shortage.“The time has come when these malpractices must stop,’’ the bench said.

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