Saturday, June 25, 2011

News Article: SC check on land acquisition a blow to government, private developers

Tanushree Roy Chowdhury, TNN Feb 2, 2011,

GURGAON: The recent Supreme Court order directing state governments to evict encroachers from land belonging to village community which have been transferred for private and commercial use in retrospective effect, might come as a big blow to several ambitious projects of Haryana government and private developers.

There have been several instances in the past in Gurgaon where the state government has been accused of acquiring panchayat land under public utilities for paltry sums and later selling or leasing it out to private players.

Private players are keeping their finger crossed in this case. Most of us dont know whether several housing blocks have come up on panchayat land. Those who have such knowledge or documents can now create bigger problem for both government and private developers, and even residents, said a Gurgaon-based property consultant.

The latest incident that has hit the government hard is the case where the government bodies HUDA and HSIIDC had acquired 350 acres of the primarily panchayat land in Wazirabad village under public utilities and then sold it off for Rs 1,700 crores to a private developer for residential commercial development, said an ex-Sarpanch of the village.

Activists have welcomed the court order. The government must release a map or a tentative plan while acquiring land for public utility purposes. This will not only ensure that villagers are convinced about the proposed development but can also keep a tab on the changes in plans made by the government, later, said Amina Sherwani, a filmmaker and social activist, associated with the farmers movement.
She added that villages are slowly shirking and being left without any breathing space and are being cramped into the Lal Dora areas.

Villagers also said that rural areas are dying a slow death because of increasing urbanization around villages and also because the government is selling off panchayat land to private developers and builders.

The apex court order says that all land meant for common use of villagers should be restored to the village panchayats. It has also directed the chief secretaries of state governments to prepare schemes to evict unscrupulous trespassers who had grabbed land using muscle power or political clout.

Associated Story

Why panchayat land is a favorite target of developers

TNN Feb 2, 2011

GURGAON: Panchayat land is seen as the easiest and cheapest to acquire by the government as well as the private developers in the city. While in the cases of government acquisition, Panchayats usually dont file objections; private players have to take help of local administration if they plan to buy a patch of village land.

Those familiar with such deals say that private developers first identify a patch of Panchayat land and then they approach the village Panchayat through local administration. They also try to get a resolution passed by the local body that the land can be sold. Once the decision is taken on this, the issue is referred to a committee constituted by the local deputy commissioner (DC).

Since DC is aware of all this and plays a key role in the entire deal, he usually gets only those members on the board who are unlikely to object a panchayat resolution, said a former member of a village panchayat in Gurgaon. Once the resolution is vetted by the committee, the land can be sold to a private party. Such land is often cheaper in comparison to the market rate, he added.

Sources in the revenue department said that in some other cases, private developers approach panchayat members to pass a resolution for fragmentation of common land into private land.

In such a case, with each family in the village getting its share, the developer approaches each of the land owners. Once this is done, the developer consolidates them for development project, said a real estate consultant.

Revenue department officials in Gurgaon said that many panchayats still own chunks of land outside villages and till recently there was a fear among the village bodies that Municipal Corporation might take over their land. Private players were seeing this as an opportunity

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