Tuesday, April 24, 2012

News Article: Now on, no pasture land for industry

KapilDave : Gandhinagar, Sun Apr 22 2012, 03:03 hrs

The state government is likely to announce a new gauchar (pastoral) land policy to comply with the last year’s Supreme Court order asking state governments to not sell government-owned pastoral land for industrial or commercial use.

A policy draft prepared by the state’s revenue department says the government will not give any pastoral land for industrial or commercial purposes and will also ensure these are not encroached against the interests of the local community.

C L Meena, principal secretary (revenue), told The Indian Express, “We have finalised the draft for the new gauchar policy and sent it to the finance department for their final views. We expect to get it cleared soon.”

Under the new policy, we will not give gauchar land for industrial or commercial purposes. If a gauchar land is in middle of an urban area, the government will denotify and sell the land and develop pastures at an alternate site. In some cases, the government has given land for some public purposes, for instance, schools, which require adjoining gauchar land. In such cases, we will sell the land to them and use the money in developing new pastoral land,” Meena added.

Asked about the money realised by the state government by selling gauchar land to industries, Meena said, “We have started handing over 30% of such amount to village panchayats for the development of alternate gauchar land. Around Rs 23 crore have already been disbursed to villages.”

The SC order had said that “pastoral land and other community resources belonging to a village shall not be given for industrial or commercial use and should strictly be used for communities”.

The apex court had directed all the state governments to formulate schemes for eviction of illegal/unauthorised occupants of land meant for the Gram Sabhas and Gram Panchayats.

In the last three years, the state government has sold or given away a total of 1.16 lakh square metres of gauchar land in five districts for other uses. Around 424 villages in the state have no pastoral land left.

The state should have 39.56 lakh hectares of grazing land, as per a revenue department notification issued in December 1988, which mandated 16 hectares (40 acres) of pastoral land for 100 animals in normal areas and 8 hectares (20 acres) for the same in forest areas.

As against this, the state only has an estimated 8.5 lakh hectares, a data that has hardly changed since the state’s formation in 1960.

Encroachment over pastoral land in state is becoming a big problem. According to the government’s own data as on September 2010, there were 50,771 encroachments in around 16,000 villages, of which 36,960 encroachments had existed for over five years.

A state government notification passed in 1999 had promised to compensate villagers whose pasture land was taken away. As per the notification, government was to charge 30% more from the party which was sold the pasture land and give it to the gram panchayat to buy alternate pasture land or develop one. The scheme, however, has not been fully implemented as yet.

© 2012 The Indian Express Limited. All rights reserved

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