Monday, November 11, 2013

Punjab mulls using panchayat land for solar energy units

Devinder Pal
Chandigarh, October 7

The Punjab Government proposes to amend the Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961, to allow it the right over panchayat land (often referred to as “shamlat” land) in the state. Sources said there was a proposal to give panchayat land to private companies for setting up non-conventional energy (solar) units.

Officials of the Rural Development and Panchayats Department have held meetings with Advocate General (AG) Ashok Aggarwal on the issue of bringing amendments to the Act. The AG has reportedly asked them to consult the Legal Remembrancer (LR).

Though the move has the potential of giving a boost to the non-conventional energy efforts of the state government, it would deprive panchayats of their main source of income.

Panchayats earn revenue by giving common land on lease. Approximately 1.55 lakh acres of land is owned by panchayats in the state. It is no secret that in the past, political leaders and other influential people have managed to usurp village common land for personal gains.

Under the Act, the ownership of village common land rests with the respective panchayat, which can use it in any manner it wants. Any individual panchayat can also give its land to the government for use by passing a resolution to that effect.

Panchayats can give common land on lease for a maximum period of 33 years. The government cannot interfere in the use of common land of any village unless the respective panchayat has passed a resolution to that effect.The panchayat of nearby Manauli village recently gave some land on lease for 33 years, but the Punjab and Haryana High Court stayed the lease.

© The Tribune Trust, 2012

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