Monday, September 30, 2013

NGOs demand policy to bar TP schemes

Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013, 12:05 IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
DNA Correspondent

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Tuesday requested Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh to frame a policy that would bar implementing town planning (TP) schemes in rural areas.

The NGOs also brought to notice problems faced by fishermen, nomads, misuse of SEZ (Special Economic Zone) to get land, common property and sale of pasture land during their meeting with the union minister at Gujarat Vidyapith.

Majority of the issues raised by NGOs pertained to land in the form of acquisition under the town planning act, selling of pasture and government land as well as land acquired for SEZ and then denotifying the zone.

Former state finance minister Sanat Mehta said the government has taken the TP scheme route just to acquire land in rural areas.

The central government should frame some policy to avoid taking such routes,” said Mehta. In reply, Ramesh assured Mehta of looking into the matter.

A majority of the revenue reforms in Gujarat benefit industrialists only. In fact, land mafia are sitting in the government,” alleged Lalji Desai, convener of the Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG).

Harinesh Pandya of Janpath represented the case of landless people and people with traditional but not legal rights to land. He also raised the issue of illegal mining in the coastal areas of the state.

The NGOs even raised questions of using SEZ to grab land and Ramesh agreed that SEZs had become a land racket.

We will bring all future SEZs under land acquisition bill. But will give a thought to SEZ that have already been notified and are getting denotified,” he said. For the betterment of fishermen, Ramesh felt that there was a need for Fishermen Rights Act in line with the Forest Rights Act. He added that he had prepared a draft for the same when he was environment minister.

NGOs a racket, says Ramesh
Although Jairam Ramesh is considered to be pro-NGO, he called NGOs a racket because of misuse by political people. While addressing a question about the decrease in the role of NGOs in rural development, Ramesh agreed that their role had decreased consciously as their experience with NGOs in some states was not so good. “We want to strengthen Panchayati Raj institutions and women self-help groups,” said the union minister.

©2013 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Farmers tilling river land face eviction, get notices

I P Singh, TNN|Sep 18, 2013, 06.28 AM IST

JALANDHAR: About two-and-a-half years after the  Supreme Court invalidated Punjab government's policy of 2007 that gave ownership rights to farmers cultivating river land, hundreds are facing eviction as the revenue department has started issuing notices stating that the government will take possession of their land.

The revenue department has initiated the step even as the Shiromani Akali Dal-led government in Punjab has been urging its Gujarat and Haryana counterparts not to evict Sikh or Punjabi farmers in those provinces.

Sources in the revenue department revealed that the transfer of land ownership
to hundreds of farmers - after receiving a fixed price for the land - would also stand invalidated following the apex court judgment, but the Punjab government was yet to take a decision on the issue.

In several cases, farmers had applied but could not get the ownership rights due to lackadaisical attitude of the government. Now, with the SC judgment, these farmers have no legal rights on the land they were cultivating.

It is learnt that around six weeks ago, the Jalandhar deputy commissioner had sought clarification for further action on the issue while submitting that after the SC order, the validity of earlier ownership transfers to farmers also stood invalidated.

In Ludhiana district, farmers have already received notices for eviction from the river land, which they had been cultivating for several years and had even applied for the transfer of ownership.

"We had applied under the 2007 policy, and the file got cleared at several levels, still the transfer did not happen. In the meantime, the Supreme Court issued the orders on January 28, 2011. Now we have been sent a notice by the Ludhiana (East) tehsildar to vacate the property," said Bhupinder Singh of Haidar Nagar village situated along the Satluj.

Ludhiana (East) tehsildar Gagandeep Singh said he was issuing notices for eviction from all government land following directives from the state government. Ludhiana (West) tehslildar has also issued similar notices of eviction.

"Hundreds of farmers are facing eviction from the river land which they were cultivating," said advocate Iqbal Singh Gill of Ludhiana, who has been pursuing the cases of farmers.

However, the Punjab financial commissioner (revenue) N S Kang said the government had not issued any directive for eviction.

Policy scrapped in village pond case

It was a case pertaining to encroachment of a pond in Rohar Jagir village in Fatehgarh Sahib district (earlier in Patiala), which went to the Supreme Court. In this case, the court directed the Punjab government to clear encroachments from panchayat and common village lands. The apex court also scrapped the policy, notified through a letter on September 26, 2007, about the transfer of ownership rights to farmers cultivating river land. "This policy was specifically for the river land, that too owned by the provincial government. However, it was also scrapped by the apex court after the appellant's lawyer referred to it to strengthen his case of getting relief for encroachment on the village pond," said advocate Iqbal Singh Gill of Ludhiana.

Copyright © 2013 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

99 year lease to landless persons who migrated from Pakistan

PTI Sep 11, 2013, 09.43PM IST

CHANDIGARH: Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda today announced rehabilitation of landless persons who had migrated from Pakistan during partition and were allocated land for a period of 20 years for cultivation.
"They are now being given further lease of the land for a period of up to 99 years," Hooda said in the state Assembly here.
With a view to rehabilitate such original allottees or their legal heirs who remained in continuous cultivating possession of the land up to September 24, 1986, the Haryana Assembly today passed the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Haryana Amendment Bill, 2013.
The provision in the new Bill seeks to give the old lessees, land in shamlat deh (village common land) on further lease for a period up to 99 years by way of allotment after recovering use and occupation charges for the period for which they remained in cultivating possession even after the expiry of the lease period.
Nearly 3,500 Sikh families in the two Haryana districts have been cultivating about 15,000 acres of land.
After partition in 1947, migrated landless persons of erstwhile Karnal district which was later bifurcated into Kaithal and Kurukshetra districts in 1966, had been allocated uncultivable land for a period of 20 years under the East Punjab Utilisation of Lands Act, 1949 and the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1953.
Hooda said, he had earlier promised to rehabilitate these landless labourers who have no other means of livelihood.
Thanking the Chief Minister for providing the extended lease, state finance minister Harmohinder Singh Chatha said, it was the responsibility of the government to rehabilitate such persons due to displacement from their land which they have been cultivating for generations.
The Assembly also took note of several Sikh farmers in Gujarat who have raised hue and cry over displacement from their land, which they had been tilling for several decades and a resolution was also passed to this effect urging the state government there to ensure they do not get displaced.
© 2013 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

High Court orders probe into Haryana panchayat land scam

September 3, 2013 08:30 IST

It is not only Haryana's whistle-blower IAS officer Ashok Khemka who has raised the alarm about widespread misappropriation of panchayat lands in the State by VIPs but also the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which expressed a similar concern on the issue, even as the Haryana government consistently dismissed it as 'a non-issue'.
When Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka apprised the State government about Robert Vadra’s allegedly irregular land deals late last year, he had also raised the issue of large-scale misappropriation of panchayat lands by bureaucrats and VIPs. The Haryana government has consistently brushed aside both issues on the ground that “there is nothing in them that merits an enquiry.”
It now turns out that days after Mr. Khemka reiterated this in his 100-page submission to the government on May 21, in which he gave details of some key villages where there is rampant misuse of rules to corner panchayat lands, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered an inquiry into land deals in one of the villages identified by him. The matter relates to Kalesar in Yamunagar district where evidence provided by Mr. Khemka to the government suggested that industrial houses and senior bureaucrats were misappropriating prime forested panchayat land for farmhouses in this scenic area. The land is adjoining the famous Kalesar wildlife sanctuary.
In an interview to The Hindu on August 27, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while replying to a question about misappropriation of panchayat lands, said that the committee appointed by his government had enquired into everything and found no wrongdoing. He further said, “Everything has been clarified by our committee. Mr. Khemka is making an issue out of a non-issue.”
This, when the High Court, acting on a petition by the Kalesar gram panchayat on May 30, had directed the Deputy Commissioner, Yamunanagar, to enquire into all deals in his area where shamlat deh (village common lands) have been transferred to people without rights, title or interest and initiate criminal or civil proceedings against the offenders. The gram panchayat had informed the court about an agreement to sell 15 acres of land belonging to the panchayat by two persons, for which a civil suit was filed to execute the sale deed.
The suit was rejected by the civil judge in Yamunagar but in 2009 was upheld by the additional district judge, even though he had recorded that the land belonged to the panchayat who was not a party in the suit. The High Court, while setting aside the order of the lower court, noted: “It is rather surprising that private parties executed an agreement to sell, filed a civil suit and the additional judge decreed the suit.” It further notes, “The agreement to sell and the suit are a fraud on the Village Common Lands Act 1961 and the gram panchayat.” The court also observed that many other similar sale deeds had been executed in the area and wondered how the Registrar of documents had permitted the deeds on village common lands belonging to gram panchayats.
In his submission to the government on Kalesar, Mr. Khemka had pointed out that a common modus operandi was adopted to transfer the possessory rights on panchayat lands without authorisation. Pointing out one such case, he had said, “A particularly shocking case was that of a senior IAS officer retired in the rank of additional chief secretary who is now re-employed as chairman of a regulatory body. He is reported to have constructed a building near the Kalesar rest house on panchayat land in the name of his nephew.” This matter and other cases of unauthorised transfer of panchayat lands were brought to the notice of the Revenue department by Mr. Khemka in October, but his notes says that “the Revenue department maintained a discomfortingly unholy silence.”
Significantly, one of the officers who was tasked with enquiring into Mr. Khemka’s allegations on the Vadra and panchayat land scams was Revenue Secretary Krishan Mohan.

Copyright© 2013, The Hindu

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Revenue Dept puts village common lands in land bank


Rahul Noronha | Hindustan Times

Bhopal: Even as Parliament on Thursday passed the land acquisition bill to protect farmlands from being taken over by corporates for industrial or commercial use, in a blatant violation of a Supreme Court order of 2011, the state revenue department has included common lands of villages in the land bank created for allotment of lands for industrial and commercial purposes.

A bench of the Supreme Court of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra in their order of January 28, 2011 in Jagpal Singh and others versus state of Punjab stated, “In many states, government orders have been issued by state governments permitting allotment of gram sabha land to private persons and commercial enterprises on payment of some money. In our opinion all such government orders are illegal and should be ignored.”

Changing the earlier system of allotment of land for industrial or commercial projects, the state cabinet in its meeting on May 28 endorsed a dakhal rahit land allotment policy for investment purposes. Under this, investors seeking land for investment purposes can choose the suitable from a land bank listed on the website of commissioner, land records. The investor will then apply to the department concerned which will examine the proposal and suggest or reject allotment to the district collector. The collector would then follow procedure for allotment by holding a hearing or inviting objections.

A look at the land bank created in 48 districts in the state, available on the website of the commissioner, land records suggests that in many cases status of lands incorporated in the land bank is mentioned as charnoi, marghat (cremation ground), graveyard, gauchar, playground, goha and grazing land, which suggests they are common lands in villages that cannot be allotted for any other purposes as per the SC order of 2011.

Even the MP land revenue code states that common lands in villages can be used only for the stated purpose.

“The state government is not only taking away common lands from villages but also keeping investors in the dark. It is offering lands to investors which cannot be taken as per Supreme Court orders,” said social activist Anil Garg. “The land bank may reflect common land of villages but for investment purposes common lands will not be allotted unless they are substituted by the investor,” said an official of the revenue department

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Protest against land take-over forces MAV contest postponement

Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013, 13:55 IST | Place: Bangalore, Chitradurga | Agency: DNA

Competition put off by six months; local residents set to protest today against the allotment of land to DRDO, IISc and BARC.
The drought-prone Amruta Mahal grazing reserve are perhaps the largest grazing grounds in the state. - DNA

Organisers of the MICAV-2013, a national level competition for Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) at the DRDO Test Range complex at Challakere in Chitradurga district, announced that the competition, scheduled to be held between June 17 and 19, would now be held in December.
The competition was postponed owing to opposition from the local residents and environment groups that are protesting allotment of the grazing land for Amruta Mahal breed of cattle, to three organization - Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Institute of Science(IISc) and Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

The protesters who are planning a massive rally on Tuesday want the land to be reserved exclusively as grazing fields for Amrit Mahal breed of cattle.

Fourteen teams, including city-based engineering colleges and institutions, private aerospace companies and defence laboratories, will participate in the MAV competition. The organisers also announced that more teams can participate in the competition through wild card entry.
Based on repeated requests from various competing teams from across the country, the organising committee meeting of the competition has decided to allow the participation of additional teams through wild card entry,” said one of the organisers.

Interested teams should register online by submitting their proposal along with photos and video links in PDF format on or before September 15. The shortlisted teams should be ready to give a flying demonstration in Bangalore scheduled during the first week of October.

Protest rally

The Jilla Amritmahal Kaval Horata Samiti, Chitradurga, which is opposing the Test Range Complex, said about 3,000 people of more than 40 villages are going to walk to Challakere to oppose the project, which they state would cause harm to the fragile environment and their livelihood.

The land has been allotted by the government without holding any public hearing. The proposed projects coming up on those lands were or highly scientific and strategic nature and will have no employment to offer to the local villagers.

The local people are now facing serious threat on their established livelihood on one hand and on the other they would face uncertain future due to lack of skills and ability to get skilled jobs” said Vinay Srinivasa of the Horata Samithi.

The Amruta Mahal grazing reserve are perhaps the largest grazing grounds in the state, if not in the country. The grazing reserve for Amruta Mahal cows and bulls endemic to Challakere, created over four centuries ago, extends to over 10,000 acres.

This expanse of land has now been walled and given away to DRDO, IISc and BARC. What worries the local people is that over 50,000 of them in 80 villages in Challakere stand to lose their livelihoods. “Being an arid land mass, Chitradurga in general and Challakere in particular, people here make a livelihood by animal husbandry. About 80% of the people are either shepherds or cowherds,” said president of the district Amrit Mahal Kaval Horata Samithi Dodda Ullarthi Kariyanna.

Travelling through the district, some of the areas resemble African shrub lands during the drought. “It always looks like this, we get only one or two showers in a year, which is just enough to get us some drinking water and grazing fields to get some greenery.
The diversion of grazing fields for infrastructure, defence and industrial purposes comes at a time when the Amrit Mahal breed of cattle were already showing decline in population,” said Shantakumar, secretary of the Samithi.

We are sure that none of us will get any benefits out of these projects and many of us will have to migrate to bigger cities and work as casual labourers,” said Bharamappa of Nayakanahatti village in Challakere taluk.

©2013 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd.