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.

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