Thursday, May 31, 2012

HC asks govt to restore old status of dams

Source: DNA | Last Updated 04:58(30/05/12

Jaipur: The Rajasthan high court on Tuesday ordered the state government to ensure that all water reservoirs, including Ramgarh Dam, are restored to their 1955 status.

The court directed the state government to start anti-encroachment drive in catchment areas of all water bodies in the state. It advised the government to conduct surveys for assessing the exact nature of encroachments.

The court said the government should cancel all land allotments done in the catchment areas in violation of section 16 of the Tenancy Act 1955.

In his orders, Justice Manish Bhandari said land in the catchment area of water bodies should not be allotted in any form.

“If such allotment continues then strong action should be taken against the concerned officials and the person getting the benefit of allotment,” the court said.

The forest department was also directed to come up with a strong policy to develop and increase the forests cover, especially in the areas located near the water bodies or reservoirs.

All municipal corporations, UITs councils, panchayat samities and village panchayats have also been restricted from starting any housing scheme in the catchment areas. The court also directed the state government to present an action plan in the second week of July.

Copyright © 2012-13 DB Corp ltd., All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Judicial tribunal to probe encroachment cases against CM Badal

Source: Bhaskar News

Chandigarh: The High Court has ordered the formation of a special Judicial Tribunal to probe land encroachment cases against Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and other big shot politicians. HC has directed the Justice(Retd) Kuldeep Singh to head the Judicial Tribunal for an unbiased probe.

The Punjab & Haryana High Court, on Tuesday, ordered the tribunal to submit case reports in every four months. The court ordered a probe under the tribunal to establish whether the land possessed by the top politicians including CM Badal and DGP Sumedh Singh Saini was ever public, shamlat or common-land.

The court’s order came after a PIL was filed pertaining to grabbing and encroachment on shamlat/common land by the high-ups in the UT periphery. The cases will now come up for hearing on May 28.

The High Court had questioned the ‘clean chit’ given by the Punjab government to its ‘elite group’ of 60 high-ups. The court had raised eyebrows over the change in entries of land from public to private, owned by 60 high-ups in the periphery of Chandigarh.

The High Court bench refused to believe the investigation undertaken by the Punjab government to be transparent and fair. It further made it clear that the probe would be conducted by a Judicial Tribunal headed by Justice(Retd) Kuldeep Singh.

Copyright © 2012-13 DB Corp ltd., All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Land grab: HC to pass orders for judicial tribunal today

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
Chandigarh , May 28, 2012

The Punjab and Haryana high court would pass the final orders on Tuesday for constitution of a judge-led tribunal to look into government land grab cases by politicians, bureaucrats, police and revenue officers in Punjab, which would file its report within six months. The division bench comprising acting chief justice MM Kumar and justice Alok Singh on Monday widened the scope of judicial panel to be headed by retired Supreme Court judge Kuldeep Singh, which was earlier going to look into the land grab by influential persons in Chandigarh's periphery and SAS Nagar.

The bench directed amicus curiae Arun Jain to make some additions/changes in the terms of reference already prepared by him for the tribunal and submit it on Tuesday for passing the final orders.

On the earlier directions of the bench, five more petitions pending before the other bench of the high court regarding government land grab cases in various parts of the state were added for judicial probe with the main case.

Punjab advocate general Ashok Aggarwal apprised the bench that many similar cases were pending before the Supreme Court, high court and the lower courts.

The bench observed that the village common land or 'jumla mushtarka malkan' had been redistributed among various proprietors, which was the whole gamut. "The tribunal would find what was the nature of land, how it had undergone change and the findings recorded by the tribunal would come back to the bench," said the bench.

The bench also said that the tribunal would be given powers vested in the civil court so that it direct the revenue, forest and rural development departments' officials to assist it properly. The bench also advised the amicus curiae to include in the terms of reference that the government authorities should provide essential staff to the tribunal within 30 days of the orders and that the tribunal would submit its first report to the high court within 3-4 months.

The bench also agreed to the submissions of senior advocate Puneet Bali, appearing in one such similar case, that any final action on tribunal's report should be taken only after adjudication in the high court. It also said that any of the counsels could assist the bench in fair investigation of the case.

Periphery encroachments: HC expands probe scope

Express news service
Posted: May 25, 2012 at 0220 hrs IST

Chandigarh Expanding the scope of investigation of the case on illegal properties owned by high-ups, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today decided to include other cases pertaining to grabbing and encroachment on shamlat/ common land in other areas of Punjab. The development took place during the resumed hearing today of a PIL on properties owned by high-ups in the UT periphery. Today’s hearing was to decide the terms of reference of the investigation to be handed over to a Judicial Tribunal. The High Court observed that other cases can be clubbed together with this petition.

Senior lawyer M L Sarin had pointed out to the Bench on Wednesday that he was appointed an amicus curiae in a case pertaining shamlat/ common land grabbed by highs-up in Mohali and related areas. The Bench today observed that the cases, five in number, can be heard together to be decided whether they (case) should also go to the Judicial Tribunal to be headed by Justice (Retd) Kuldeep Singh of the Supreme Court.

The cases will now come up for hearing on May 28. On Wednesday the High Court had raised eyebrows over the change in entries of land from public to private, owned by 60 high-ups in the periphery of Chandigarh,. The High Court had questioned the “clean chit” given by the Punjab government to its “elite group” of 60 high-ups.

Rejecting the stout opposition of the Punjab government to handing over of the probe of the case to a judicial tribunal, the High Court had observed on Wednesday, “How do we expect that those who are to decide will decide against themselves?”

Refusing to believe that the investigation has been done by Punjab in a transparent manner, the Bench had made it clear that the probe would be conducted by a judicial tribunal headed by Justice (Retd) Kuldeep Singh, who will be assisted by a District and Sessions Judge (DSJ).

© 2012 The Indian Express Limited. All rights reserved

Monday, May 28, 2012

UT land grab: Punjab counsel gets the stick from HC

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, May 23, 2012

Showing little conviction in the Punjab advocate-general's (AG) repeated arguments objecting to a judicial panel to probe grabbing of public land by high-ups in Chandigarh's periphery, the Punjab and Haryana high court directed him to assist the court as a 'friend of the court' and sit with the amicus curiae (lawyer acting as 'friend of the court'), Arun Jain, to finalise the terms of reference for the panel by Thursday.

Retired Supreme Court judge Kuldeep Singh has already given his consent to head the two-member commission or tribunal. However, the bench said that it was also considering if advocate PN Aggarwal, who had expertise in revenue matters, could assist the panel.
When the case came up for arguments before the division bench comprising acting chief justice MM Kumar and justice Alok Singh on Wednesday, AG Ashok Aggarwal reiterated that there was no need to constitute a commission as nobody had questioned the state government's detailed affidavit in which clean chit was handed to all but seven prominent persons alleged to have encroached upon government land in SAS Nagar district.

However, the bench asked him, "How was the public land made private? What was the nature of land before Independence, and how was it changed later? Your affidavit tries to justify that 60 (influential) people have private land."

The bench further added, "When people like Saini (DGP Sumedh Singh Saini) and Badal (chief minister Parkash Singh) are involved, how can we expect that such people will decide against themselves?"

When Aggarwal again argued that there was nothing wrong in the affidavit, the bench asked, "Mr Aggarwal, you know better what is going on." It stated that as the affidavit carried "entries which are nowhere on the record".

"You should have mentioned in the report what as the original nature of land…Let the commission come. It will tell the whole world (what the reality is), and you yourself will be surprised," the bench told Aggarwal.

During the arguments, senior advocate ML Sareen made a submission that he had also been appointed amicus curiae in a similar case by the high court where a huge number of encroachment cases in Punjab had been highlighted. He said that the bench had directed the state to submit the records of all the cases and make efforts to evict illegal encroachers as per the Supreme Court's directions.

Copyright © 2012 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Land sharks gobble up 80-cottah pond

TNN | May 24, 2012, 05.03AM IST

KOLKATA: Encroachment of waterbodies continues unabated. After a pond was filled up in Dum Dum and another in Nonadanga late last year, land sharks have struck yet again – this time in the city proper - filling up an 80-cottah waterbody to construct residential high rises. The encroached pond is at 51A Canal Circular Road behind Apollo Gleneagles Hospital in east Kolkata.

The controversial plot, that locals say rippled with water till three to four months ago, has now been filled up with earth. Though some claimed that the 80-cottah 'land' in question was a low-lying area where water accumulated during monsoon, giving the impression of a waterbody, others disputed it in hushed tones and informed that a pond had existed there for years. Sources said both muscle and money had played a part in suppressing voices in the neighbourhood.

The presence of shanties housing washermen is the only evidence of a 'waterbody'. In south Kolkata, too, washermen live in a cluster around a pond off Pramathesh Barua Sarani. "With the pond at Canal Circular Road now gone, the washermen have to make do with water from a well," said washerwoman Uma Razak.

It was a local resident who alerted environment activist Subhas Datta about the encroachment. The latter went on a recce on Wednesday afternoon, but was stopped by private security guards posted at the site. It was only after police arrived that the guards relented. What Datta saw left him in shock. "There is no sign of a pond now. It has been completely filled up," he said.

Sources said the pond has been filled up over the past couple of months under blanket security. The entrance to the plot is shrouded with a black tarpaulin and entry strictly monitored. There is absolute secrecy over who the promoters are and what is to be constructed at the encroached site.

Some, however, brazenly claimed that the 'so-called pond' was a lowland. "It is good that it is being filled up," said Rajesh Sharma, who has been living here for 40 years. Activist Bonani Kakkar, who has fought many a legal battle for wetland conservation, clarified that any waterbody over 5 cottah comes under the purview of Inland Fisheries Act and any wetland, whatever be the condition, cannot be converted to dry land.

A 16-year-old spilled the beans. "The pond had a lot of water, but the people have been filling it gradually for years. The activity picked up steam over the past couple of months," he said.

An FIR has been lodged and Phool Bagan police have written to Kolkata Municipal Corporation for action. KMC has, in turn, asked police to maintain a 24x7 vigil and plans to inspect the site soon. "A joint inspection will be carried out with representatives of the pollution control board, inland fisheries department and KMC's project management unit," said KMC member, mayor-in-council (environment) Sanchita Mondol.

South Asian Forum for Environment chair Dipayan Dey isn't too enthused with the assurance of an inspection. "It is our collective responsibility to end the encroachment and filling of wetlands. But no one is doing anything about it. There are several cases like these, but they never come to our notice," he added.

Copyright © 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

State to recover encroached CA sites in ULB limits

Bangalore, May 17, 2012, DHNS:

The State government has decided to recover civic amenity (CA) sites that have been encroached by land sharks in the limits of all urban local bodies (barring city corporations) in the State.

Disclosing this to reporters, Municipal Administration Minister Balachandra Jharkiholi said he had directed the Urban Development Department to submit a report on encroachment of CA sites in all City Municipal Councils, Town Municipal Councils and Town Panchayats in a month’s time. Action will be initiated to recover them based on the report. The department had been directed to recommend action to be taken against officials who had colluded with land sharks in encroaching CA sites, he added.

The Minister said former minister Goolihatti Shekar had urged him to take action against officials who had helped land sharks encroach CA sites in Hosadurga taluk. The problem is not confined to Hosadurga. Land sharks have encroached upon a large number of CA sites in urban local bodies with the help of local officials.

Hence, it was decided to take action across the State, he added. He said he has directed all urban local bodies that the final approval for action plans for taking up various developmental works under the Chief Minister’s Nagarothana Yojane, should be taken by December 2012 and 100 per cent fund utilisation should be ensured by March 2013.

The Yojane, which has an outlay of Rs 1,454 crore, envisages upgrading of civic amenities in urban local bodies.

The department was able to spend only about 35 per cent of the Rs 661-crore allocation under the Yojane in the last financial year. This was because urban local bodies failed to prepare action plans and get approvals.

The approval process was cumbersome. Now, steps are being taken to simplify it, he said. Erratic power supply was one of the reasons for water supply problem, he added.

Copyright 2008, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Punjab DGP, 7 others ‘own’ village common land

Chitleen K Sethi : Mohali, Thu May 17 2012, 01:17 hrs

A high-powered committee set up by the state government has found that the lands owned by Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini and five other senior officers were actually parts of the village common land (shamlat/ mushtarkan malkan).

The committee, formed to probe the nature of land owned by 60 VIPs in Chandigarh’s periphery, found that apart from these six officers, two others — retired bureucrat JS Kesar and former SSP, G S Pherurai — have been shown to own land which is still, according to the revenue records, part of the village shamlat deh.

Selling and buying of shamlat deh land by private individuals is illegal under the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulations) Rules, 1964. Also division and subsequent sale of jumla mushtarkan malkan land is illegal under The East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948. Any such land deal amounts to the buyer having committed fraud with the village panchayat which is the custodian of all such lands.

The committee’s report, prepared by the government following orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was submitted to the chief secretary on Friday.

The report gathered by the Mohali deputy commissioner from the tehsil offices in Kharar, Dera Bassi and Majri block, states that only eight out of the 60 VIPs whose names were provided by the court owned or ever owned public land.

Saini owned 32 kanal 9 marla (a little more than 4 acres) land in Kansal village. One acre (8 kanals) of this land was however sold vide mutation number 3955. This land, states the DC’s report, was part of the mushtakan malkan rasab hasab khewat (village common land) till 1986 when it was divided among the owners according to their individual shares. Saini bought this land from these individuals a decade later.

Similarly, the state election commissioner Shivinder Singh Brar owns another 32 kanals adjoining Saini’s land in Kansal, which too was part of the village common land till 1986.

JS Kesar, a retired IAS officer of the state has been shown to own 58 kanals 5 marla of land in Tira village, which is shamlat deh (indivisible village common land). Kesar has been issued eviction orders by the block development and panchayat officer (BDPO), Majri block, on May 4.

Former SSP, G S Pherurai, also owns 15 kanal 12 marla shamlat deh land in Dhanora village, also in the Majri block. He too was issued eviction orders on May 4 by the BDPO. D S Dhillon, son of Lal Singh IAS, Joginder Singh, Baldev Singh and Gurmeet Singh too have been shown to own plots, which were once part of the village common land.

On March 24, a division bench of acting Chief Justice MM Kumar and Justice Alok Singh, which is hearing a petition on the acquisition of property by the VIPs in Chandigarh’s periphery, had asked the Punjab government to report whether land purchased by the 60 high-ranking officers and politicians was ever “public” land and if anyone of them were in possession of shamlat/ forest/ panchayat/ nazrool land. The court had also asked the government on the measures it had taken to get public land released from these officers.

The 60 VIPs under the scanner were named in the probe report of former ADGP Punjab, Chandrashekhar as owning vast tracts of properties in and around Chandigarh.

The list shows Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as owning five acres of land in Lohgarh village, his OSD Vishwajeet Khanna owning 21 acres in Nimbuan village, a former chief engineer Manmohanjit Singh owning 38 acres in Nimbuan, a former IAS officer AS Chattha owning land in Bishanpura, former DGP, Punjab, Gurbachan Singh Jagat owning land in Bishanpura, Navtej Singh son of Balwant Singh Ramoowalia owning land in village Chatt, Late Captain Kanwaljit Singh (Kishanpura), SS Boparai (Kishanpura), Kewal Singh Dhillon (Kishanpura), SS Virk (Dialpura, Bakarpur and Makhanmjra), Jagmohan Singh Kang and his family (Dulwa), Balbir Singh Sidhu (Kurari), Surinder Pal Singh Virk (Mohali).

Senior IAS officer KBS Sidhu is shown to “own” two schools, including the Small Wonders School in Mohali, in the name of Jasdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh in the list. Interestingly, the three tehsils, which were asked to go through the entries in the list and cross check them with the relevant revenue records found that in many cases the details in the list had no corroborative evidence in revenue records.

For instance the list states that Sumedh Singh Saini owns the “Saini-Farm” in village Sohana. He is shown to own another 6.5 acres in Sohana. The list also states that Saini is in illegal possession of 377 kanal and 10 marla of shamlat land of village Kansal. The report prepared for the High Court, however, shows that according to the revenue records Saini owns only 32.9 kanals in Kansal. No other land is shown to be owned by Saini. Similarly the list names former DGP NPS Aulakh owning land in Mohali, which too was not borne out by revenue records.

© 2012 The Indian Express Limited. All rights reserved

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ponds dying slow death – Poor management, urbanisation to blame

Sumit Hakhoo
Tribune News Service

Jammu, April 27
Once an important part of the rural life in the Jammu region, traditional “talabs” (ponds) have slowly given in to rapid urbanisation, particularly in the Kandi area.

While most have been turned into garbage dumps, others have been encroached upon by people right under the nose of the administration.

Till a few decades ago, ponds and ditches were visible all around the city and formed an important water buffer, particularly during the summer. However, people seldom use these now due to their poor condition.

Around 20 years ago, people used water drawn from ponds for their day-to-day activities. But the pond in our locality has now turned filthy, as people dump garbage in it,” says Rajesh Sharma, a resident of Bantalab.

The importance of this water body can be gauged from the fact that our area gets its name from it,” he says.

Most people in Jammu attribute the deteriorating condition of these ponds to influx of people from other regions of the state who have constructed houses by setting up new localities.

In the Jammu region, these water bodies are associated with village deities. But once new localities come into being, their inhabitants have little emotional attachment to these water bodies and use them as garbage dumps,” says Indu Paul from Raipur village.

At many places, greed for land has also contributed to the demise of ponds. “The pond in our area was filled with earth to reclaim land and was subsequently put up for sale. We approached the municipal corporation and the Jammu Development Authority but to no avail,” said Ashwani Kumar, a resident of Paloura.

A year ago, the municipal corporation announced a major project to save and beautify the traditional water bodies falling under its jurisdiction. However, its results are nowhere to be seen, given the conditions of ponds in the city.

MC Commissioner KL Khajuria was not available for comments.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HC deadline for Punjab, seeks response on setting up probe panel on illegal occupation of land

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 23
Setting a three-day deadline, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked the State of Punjab to give its response on setting up a one-member commission of inquiry, headed by a retired High Court judge, to probe into the illegal occupation of common village land by the higher-ups in the periphery of Chandigarh.

As the matter came up for resumed hearing before the Division Bench headed by acting Chief Justice MM Kumar, an affidavit filed by Punjab Chief Secretary Rakesh Singh was placed before it.

In the affidavit, the Chief Secretary submitted: “If a commission of inquiry is appointed, it would delay the proceedings which are already going on in various courts to retrieve the public land, in our opinion appointment of commission is not required.”

Apparently not satisfied with the reply, the Bench asked the counsel for the Punjab government to seek fresh instructions on the setting up of the commission and inform the Bench on Wednesday.

The Bench, on the previous date of hearing, had made clear its opinion that only a commission could probe the matter independently. But before passing an order, the Bench had asked the state government to respond to the query why a commission should not be constituted.

The case will now come up for further hearing on April 25. The matter was brought to the court’s notice by a Nayagoan resident, Kuldip Singh.

Accusing a senior police functionary of a land-grab bid in Nayagaon, he had sought protection, while praying for the registration of an FIR and a CBI probe into the dealings.

The inquiry was entrusted to the ADGP after Justice Ranjit Singh of the High Court took cognizance of the matter. Justice Ranjit Singh had asked the ADGP to lay emphasis on Nayagaon, Zirakpur, Mohali, Kansal and Koraran areas.

The judge had added: “It would also need investigation to see what is the source of acquisition.” The state has already been admonished by the court for its failure to initiate action for getting government and forest land freed from illegal possession in Nayagaon.

The Bench had also directed the authorities to inform the court about the cases registered and action taken against the illegal occupants, besides submitting details of the action initiated to get the land freed from illegal occupants.

Monday, May 14, 2012

State govt gives land worth crores to private company, sans authority: HC

Anand Bodh, TNN May 11, 2012, 07.27AM IST

SHIMLA: Around 325 bighas of land worth crores was handed over by the Himachal Pradesh government to Jai Prakash Associates Limited (JAL) without any authority, which has left the high court shocked.

In its recent judgment, the division bench of the court has observed, "Can the state act like a land mafia, take over the possession of the village common land and hand it over to a private company without even following the semblance of the rule of law? Can a private company take possession of public property and erect a factory thereupon without any legal authority? Obviously the answer has to an emphatic No."

In its May 4 judgment, the division bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol has pointed out that the speed at which the action was taken and the manner in which JAL was put into possession of the plant clearly reflects that everything is not above board.

The verdict said that as per the documents, which are on record, single window clearance for the plant was conveyed to JAL on September 16, 2004, which thereafter approached the state level site appraisal committee for approval of the site at village Pandiyana (Tikkri) near Bagheri and the proposed site was finally recommended and approved by the committee on May 27, 2005.

The court observed that the version of state is that the land selected was forest land and therefore permission for diversion of the forest land was sought under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for being diverted for use of non-forest purpose for setting up a cement plant. This permission was granted on September 8, 2005. Thereafter, on October 18, 2005 the industry department took up the matter with the revenue department for leasing out the land to JAL.

"Admittedly, the revenue department transferred the land to industry department only on November 29, 2008 and the industry department took notional possession of the land on March 4, 2009. The company had been put in possession of the land in October, 2005 without any legal document or order. We vide our order dated September 30, 2011, had directed the chief secretary to the Himachal Pradesh government to explain how the possession of land was handed over to JAL," the court said.

On the reply filed by the chief secretary, the court observed that shockingly in a matter which was being dealt with at the highest levels of the executive, nobody looked into this aspect of the matter as to how JAL had been put in possession of this land, merely because the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) had granted permission to divert the forest land for non-forest purpose.

The court further pointed out that in fact the land, even as per the government, was village common land and possession was not of the revenue or industry departments. "If the possession of the land was not with the departments how was the possession of public land handed over to the company," it said.

While referring to the issue of transferring land from the common pool to allotment pool, the court observed that again only the interest of JAL was watched and the interests of the common people were totally forgotten. "It appears that the officials were more concerned about the interest of the project proponent and nobody bothered about the interest of the villagers or the purpose of the village common lands act," the court added.

© 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Action Plan for Development and rejuvenating of water bodies discussed

Written by Newspoint Bureau
Saturday, 28 April 2012 23:10

Samba, April 28

A meeting of officers of Rural Dev Department, Revenue Department and Agriculture Deptt was held under the Chairmanship of Mubarak Singh, District Development Commissioner, Samba for implementation of Action Plan for rejuvenating and development of water Bodies i.e. community ponds/bowlies, wells etc. in the rural areas of the district. 

It was revealed that the action plan for development of water bodies in the district has been formulated and the Rural Dev Deptt has identified 427 community ponds, bowlies etc. and further that the work has already been started for rejuvenating, renovation and development of these ponds by the Rural Dev Department under MG-NREGA. It was also shared that 216 ponds have been rejuvenated & developed till date and the process is going on for repairing the remaining ponds. 

During the course of meeting, the plan for development of water bodies was thoroughly discussed and the Block Dev Officers were directed to ensure the full participation of Panchayats in this behalf and were asked to complete the task of renovating these community ponds well before the onset of Monsoon season. A committee for monitoring the implementation of the action plan under the Chairmanship of Addl District Dev Commissioner has also been constituted who shall obtain the progress reports from the Block Dev Officers on weekly basis for completing the task within the stipulated time. 

During the meeting, the Tehsildars and Naib Tehsildars were also directed to ensure that the encroachment of community ponds, if any, is removed so that the water bodies are properly developed and put to use. They were also directed to remove the encroachment of state/Kah Charai land and further that the list of such encroachments be prepared for ejecting the illegal occupants from state land and also for taking legal action against them. 

During the meeting the progress of issuance of Kissan Credit Cards (KCC) was also reviewed. It was informed that the action plan has also been prepared by the Agriculture Department for 100% coverage of KCC wherein Agriculture, Revenue Deptts and Bankers have been directed for preparation and issuance of KCC within three months. Madhav Lal, Chief Secretary, J&K on the occasion of inauguration of issuance of KCCs on 18th of April, 2012, had directed the District Administration and allied departments to ensure 100% coverage of the farmers under the scheme of Kissan Credit Cards for facilitating them to afford the inputs of agricultural activities i.e. better seeds and new techniques for diversification of the agriculture and allied activities with the financial assistance through these cards. He had also directed the District Administration for taking all necessary steps for renovating and development of water bodies. Among others, ADDC, Samba, ADC, Samba, Asstt Commissioner (Dev), Samba and District Officer from various departments attended the meeting. The Lead Bank Officer alongwith Distt Officers of JK Bank, SBI, PNB, JCC, Grameen Bank also attended the meeting and assured to provide all coordination and cooperation for issuance of Kissan Credit Cards within the time frame fixed in the action plan.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gauchar land not to be allotted to industries: Gujarat govt preparing a new policy on pasture land

Ahmedabad, 22 April 2012

It seems for Gujarat Congress even the issue of Gauchar land will not prove attractive in next assembly election campaign.

Revenue department of Gujarat government has already prepared a policy draft on pastoral land(gauchar) to comply with the last year’s Supreme Court order.

CL Meena, Principal Secretary (Revenue) has in talk with the Indian Express correspondent Kapil Dave said that the govt has finalized the draft for the new gauchar policy ahd sent it to Finance department for their final views. “We expect to get it cleared soon,” Meena added.

As per the Indian Express report quoting Meena the policy has following provisions:

-No pastoral land to be given to industrial or commercial purpose. Govt will also ensure these are not encroached against the interest of local community.

-If gauchar land is in middle of an urban area, the government will denotify and sell the land and develop pastures at an alternate site.

-New gauchar (pastoral) land policy to comply with the last year’s Supreme Court order asking state govt to not sell govt owned pastoral land for industrial or commercial use.

-If 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 govt 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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

News Article: Himachal Green Court imposes Rs 100 Cr damages on Jaypee Cement Plant

By: Ravinder Makhaik

High Court orders dismantling of captive thermal plant

Shimla: Getting tough on blatant violations of environment laws, a green bench of HP High Court on Friday not only imposed Rs 100 crore damages on Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. (JAL) for having set up a whole cement plant by adopting fraudulent means but also cancelled permissions for a 62 MW captive thermal plant and directed that it be dismantled within 3 months. To fix official responsibility for allowing the illegality, the court set up a special investigation team (SIT) for the purpose.

Jaypee Cement plant in Bagheri Himachal Pradesh
Disposing of a PIL (No 15 of 2009) and a petition (No 586 of 2010) challenging the setting up of a cement plant at Bagheri village in Solan district, the green bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta with Justice Sanjay Karol held that that “the entire project of Jaiprakash Associates Ltd is based on a tissue of lies.”

Writing the order for the bench Justice Deepak Gupta observes “this company has behaved like a law unto itself. At every stage JAL has either given wrong information or has tried to mislead the authorities.”

Firstly to obtain environment clearance, the company fraudulently claimed costs of the plant to be less than Rs 100 crore where as actually having invested between Rs 400 to Rs 500 crore setting up the cement plant.

Laws on September 16, 2004, when the cement plant was cleared by the states single window clearance authority, for a project with less than Rs 100 cr investment did not require to obtain any clearances from ministry of environment of forest and environment (MoEF).

The court struck down the company’s contention that project costs escalated to over Rs 400 crore because of delays and increase in prices of plant machinery. The judges pointed out that the plant construction began on November 2, 2004 with the promoters not holding any public hearing or obtaining any environment clearance. No delays occurred as the plant was completed within the scheduled 5 year period.

The court even expressed shock at transfer of 325 bighas of villagers’ common lands worth crores of rupees without any authority whatsoever.

Can the state act like a land mafia, take over possession of the village common land and hand it over to a private company without even following the semblance of the rule of law,” the judges questioned?

The court held that the possession of land was illegally handed over to JAL and clearance from MoEF for diverting forest land for the cement plant was only taken after it had been set up.

Holding JAL guilty of deceit the court adopted the ‘polluter pays’ principal to impose Rs 100 damages on the company that is to be paid in four equal installments with the first one due by August 31, 2012 and the last one by March 31, 2015.

Before ordering dismantling of the thermal plant set up purportedly for captive use of the cement plant, the court observed that it “was set up without any valid approval and construction was carried out even after the consent was withdrawn.”

The court recorded that an application for setting up a 25 MW captive multi fuel power plant at Bagheri was first moved before director industries on December 20, 2005.

Though environment clearances were not obtained or project costs shown, the proposal was cleared on September 27, 2006 and JAL started construction immediately.

On realizing that environment clearance under an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2006 notification was mandatory, HP Pollution Control Board on February 15, 2007 asked JAL hold a public hearing and obtain environment clearance for the thermal plant under construction. The projected investment for the plant was Rs 90.45 crores.

A public hearing was conducted on July 2, 2007 and minutes of the meeting revealed that the entire public present opposed setting up of the thermal plant.

On July 16, 2007 the government took a decision to withdraw all no objection certificates for setting up thermal plants in the state.

Despite PCB withdrawing the consent to establish on July 17, 2007 and MoEF as for keeping the project in abeyance on September 7, 2007, the company did not stop construction.

JAL behaved as if it is above the law,” the court observed.

However with a change of government in December 2007, on November 10, 2008 the policy was changed by the cabinet at the behest of an overactive bureaucracy to permit captive consumption thermal plants.

Interestingly on the same day JAL through its executive chairman sent a letter seeking permission to set up a 60 MW captive thermal plant at Bagheri.

JAL seems to have its eyes and ears in every wing of the government because even before the ink had dried on the letters conveying the new policy, JAL had sent its own detailed proposal for setting up a thermal plant on the same day,” the judges observed.

Till date there is no permission from MoEF permitting use of forest land for setting up a thermal plant, the order records.

JAL applied to MoEF for obtaining environment clearance for a integrated 62 MW project on February 18, 2009 and a public hearing was held on September 7, 2009.

Striking down the environment clearance for the thermal plant, the judges concluded that the entire foundation of the environment clearance obtained by JAL was based on falsehood.

With the court observing that the company could not have succeeded in its illegal endeavour to establish the plant and get permissions without active connivance of officials, it ordered setting up of a three member special investigation team to be headed by KC Sadyal, additional director general of vigilance bureau.

The court has empowered SIT to investigate and identify the public servants who connived to with and helped JAL and those who were negligent in discharge of their duties.

The investigation has also been asked to indentify whether any official directly or indirectly received undue benefits from JAL or any of its associate companies whether in the form of grant of business outlets, reemployment etc.

Directed to submit its report December 31, 2012, the court asked SIT to also recommend initiation of criminal or disciplinary action against erring officials

About official apathy, the order observed, “most shocking aspect of the matter is that neither the department of industries nor the pollution control board thought it fit to verify whether the cost of the project of Rs 90 Cr submitted by JAL was in fact correct or not.

On the one hand JAL was stating that it was investing Rs.450 crores on this project and on the other hand it was claiming that the cement plant would cost only Rs.90 crores. The industry department in its reply has, like the proverbial ostrich, hidden its head in the sand and has not replied to the allegations regarding costings. If this is the state of affairs, the state of Himachal Pradesh is headed for environmental ruination.”

Petitioners Him Privesh Enviorment Protection Society and panchayat representatives of the area had alleged that the cement plant had been set up in total violation of environment laws, no proper public hearing was conducted and 325 bighas of village common lands had been wrongly transferred by the state in favour of the company.

Monday, May 7, 2012

News Article: Urgent steps needed to save pond

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Encroachment, dumping of garbage and general negligence by the Corporation are slowly killing an old pond in the Mannanthala area. The Thengumkulam pond in Gandhiji Nagar, Mannanthala, previously belonged to the then Ulloor Panchayat. When Ulloor Panchayat was merged with the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in 2000, it became a property of the Corporation.

Formerly, this pond was a main source of water for irrigation to the agricultural areas. But, gradually, the paddy lands were filled up and converted as housing plots and as a result of this, there became no need for water from this pond for irrigation purpose.

Now, the pond has become very shallow and it has almost got dried up. Nowadays, there will be water in the pond only during the rainy season. It is overgrown with grass, all types of weeds and has become a breeding centre for mosquitoes and other harmful insects and creatures.

T Ramachandran Nair, executive committee member of the Gandhiji Nagar Residents’ Association, describes it as the ‘Muthassikulam’ of Nalanchira-Mannanthala area. An 81-year-old lady, Sarada K, of the locality laments that the pond has been reduced by 35 cents by this time due to encroachment and dumping of waste. This happened as a result of the continued negligence on the part of the former Ulloor Panchayat and later by the Corporation.

The maintenance and upkeep of this pond is highly essential for retaining the ground water level of the area. It is also the policy of the Government to preserve existing water bodies to meet the shortage of water.

"The Gandhiji Nagar Residents’ Association, ever since its formation in 1991, has been taking up the matter of cleaning and upkeep of the pond with the then Ulloor Panchayat and later with the Corporation,’’ its president Jameskutty Cyriac said. But all efforts were in vain and the Corporation has not taken any steps for the revival of the pond so far.

"The estimate for undertaking the work has already been prepared and given to the Irrigation Department. Further developments are awaited,’’ said Vanaja Rajendrababu, the Councillor of Mannanthala Ward.

It is high time the Corporation urgently intervened to protect this pond, lest it too becomes history.

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