Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moga village panchayat losing Rs 25 crore a year : Locals encroach upon 900 acres of jagir patti land worth over Rs. 250 cr in Charik village


Kulwinder Sandhu/TNS

Moga, October 21

In 1954, 900 acres of jagir patti land worth more than Rs 250 crore was declared surplus during the land consolidation drive. It was to be transferred to the panchayat in Charik village of the Moga district. But it never happened. Reason: The insensitive attitude of the revenue and panchayat departments which resulted in large-scale encroachments on this land by the locals.

Now, the panchayat has been left poorer and now holds only 8 acres 4 kanals and 10 marlas of shamlat land leased out for cultivation at a meager amount of Rs 1.59 lakh as per the figures of the last year. If the panchayat had got the possession of entire 900 acres land, then it would have been richer by Rs 25 crore per year by giving it on lease at the prevailing market rates.

No matter, the Vigilance Bureau initiated an inquiry into these encroachments giving a ray of hope to the panchayat for getting the ownership right, but it shattered when the inquiry was closed citing many complications.

A former patwari of the village, Paramjit Singh, told The Tribune that after consolidation, the ownership right of this land from the jagirdars was not transferred to the panchayat. So over a period of time people started encroaching upon this land. Some of them got it transferred on their names while a major portion of this land still stands on the names of the jagirdars and their family members despite the fact that they do not hold the possession anymore. The cultivating rights (girdawari) had been transferred on the names of the tillers.

Few years back, a resident of the village went to the court of district collector to remove the anomalies but finding it difficult to settle the dispute, the district collector-cum-deputy commissioner referred the matter to the civil court.

Not only this, many more cases of encroachments with legal complicacies over its ownership rights had also come up in the district. The state government and the district administration had almost failed to remove these anomalies.

A similar dispute cropped-up a few years back in Saleena village of the district. The then DDPO, Ranbir Singh Mudhal, in his report found that successive BDPOs of the Moga-II block failed to protect 108 acres of the village common land (grazing land) of this village, a major portion of which was sold to influential persons from time to time in the past 60 years. They failed to transfer the ownership rights of this land on the name of panchayat (grazing land), which led to encroachments. A section of the village residents had left this land for common purposes of grazing after the consolidation when this land was declared surplus by the government.

The DDPO forwarded his report to the director of panchayat department demanding departmental action against the successive BDPOs for their negligence and also suggested legal intervention to protect the panchayat property, but no action has been taken by the Directorate of Panchayat Department, so far.

Last year, the Supreme Court asked the DC to look into this matter, but the administration in a magisterial probe a few weeks back had maintained that the ownership rights of the disputed land were not transferred to the panchayat, therefore, it could not be considered as a common land. Moreover, the high court had also ruled in favour of the purchasers who bought this land from the family members of the actual owners who left if for common purposes.

However, at the same time the magisterial probe suggested that the panchayat department can move to the apex court against the high court’s decision for getting the ownership rights.

As per a report of the Revenue Department, former minister and senior Congress leader Avtar Henry, former MP Kewal Singh, a couple of former bureaucrats and some local leaders were presently cultivating this land and enjoying the ownership rights confirmed by the HC order, which was not challenged either by the village panchayat, probably due to political considerations.

Meanwhile, seven cases of encroachments on 5 acres and 5 kanals of land were pending before the Collector’s court. A dispute over alleged encroachment on 108 acres of grazing common land in Saleena village has not yet been settled by the department. A vigilance probe into the illegal sale of hundreds of acres of panchayat land at Charik village has also gathered dust.

DDPO Ravinder Pal Singh Sandhu, while claiming that the department has managed to remove encroachments from hundreds of acres of shamlat land in the villages during the past few years, said only seven cases of encroachments on 5 acres and 5 kanals of land were pending before his court.

The details of these encroachments are; 1 kanal 10 marla land in Bughipura village, 6 kanal 3 marla in Nathuwala Garbi village, 2 acre 4 kanal in Cheeda village, 1 marla in Badhni Khurd village, 1 acre 4 kanal in Nurpur Hakima village, 16 marla in Mastewala village and 4 kanal 4 marla land in Rajewala village.

“I have asked the BDPOs concerned to visit the spot and prepare a detailed report of these encroachments and send the report to his office so that legal action can be taken accordingly to evacuate this land from the encroachers,” he said.

© The Tribune Trust, 2012

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