Monday, October 14, 2013

Farmers on river lands in Punjab face eviction

IP Singh, TNN Sep 18, 2013, 08.20PM IST

JALANDHAR: As farmers cultivating river land in Punjab have started receiving notices for eviction, it is coming out that it was a case pertaining to encroachment of a village pond in Rohar Jagir, then district Patiala and now in district Fatehgarh Sahib, which went to the Supreme Court, and the latter, in its decision in January 2011, not only held that encroachments be cleared from panchayat and village common lands but also scrapped the letter of September 26, 2007 which promulgated the policy to transfer ownership rights to the farmers cultivating river lands owned by the provincial government.

"This policy was specifically for river lands, that too owned by the provincial government. However, it was also scrapped by the SC after the appellant's lawyer referred to it to strengthen his case of getting relief for encroachment on village pond," said advocate Iqbal Singh Gill of Ludhiana who had been following the issue with revenue department after the SC decision.

"We even met revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia to explain the fallouts of the issue holding that there was a difference in encroachment on gram panchayat lands and farmers cultivating river lands and government should address the issue by filing a curative petition in the SC or take other legal measures," Gill said.

SC bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju had come down heavily upon the official machinery and state governments for colluding with encroachers. In the specific case in SC, district development and panchayat officer cum collector had sought to regularize the encroachment by realizing cost of it. This was challenged and all the appellate authorities including the HC and SC held that gram panchayat and lower level officials colluded with the encroachers.

When contacted, financial commissioner revenue NS Kang admitted that no petition was filed in the SC to get any relief after scrapping of the policy by the SC.

Gill and revenue department officials held that the SC order had ramifications for thousands of farmers who happened to be small farmers but the state government failed to find an effective remedy. "This reflects that the state government did not bring it in the notice of the SC that its policy did not at all pertain to regularization of encroachment on village common lands and now the people would suffer," Gill said.

"As of now all the farmers including those who had got ownership rights under the policy stood affected and state government needs to clarify the situation," said a revenue department official.

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