Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dept tagging those willing to pay for encroached village land

Jatinder Kohli , Hindustan Times  Jalandhar, October 13, 2014

The state rural development and panchayat department has been working on a proposal to sell encroached portion of common village land (shamlat) to encroachers if they are ready to pay its cost to the government.
The step has been necessitated by the failure of the department to get its land vacated by people who have been residing on the shamlat (common) land of gram panchayat for years.

In a letter to divisional deputy directors of departments in Ferozepur, Patiala and Jalandhar (a copy is with Hindustan Times), the joint director has asked them to carry out a survey in their divisions through the district development and panchayat officers to identify common lands in areas on which people are residing and asks for a list of people, who are willing to pay the cost of land.

A report has been sought on the village level, including the total area of the land and the therein.


This thought was first articulated by a committee on the panchayati raj (local government) in the state legislative assembly, on the rationale that it would increase the income of the panchayats.

The committee recognised the fact that thousands of people had been living on panchayat lands by constructing their houses for more than 50 years are ready to pay the cost. The panel suggested that the income of panchayats will increase due to this and be further used for development. The state government also has a policy wherein the land could be handed over to people living on it, if cost is paid.

Sources said that hundreds of acres of village land had been encroached upon the state and the department officers had been hard-pressed to take a decision on the status.

Meanwhile, sources said most of the encroachments had been done by people of the weaker sections and as and when the land is needed to be vacated, a rehabilitation solution should also be in place.

A senior official of department said that department had not given any time frame for the preparation of the report, but had just asked for immediate work on the issue.
"We have requested the department to give us more time as we do not have enough manpower," said an official.

When contacted, director, rural development and panchayat department Siban C said reports were yet to be received. He added the department wanted to know the area in the state under encroachment and the number of cases pending at the district level.

The step has been necessitated by the failure of the state rural development and panchayat department to get land vacated by people who have been residing on the shamlat (common) land of gram panchayat for years.
No time line has been fixed for this, but the logic advanced is that the panchayats' income will rise if the land is sold legally.

Sources said most of the encroachments had been done by people of the weaker sections and as and when the land is needed to be vacated, a rehabilitation solution should also be in place.

No Govt Step Yet on SC Order

By Express News Service
Published: 27th October 2014

BALANGIR: Though the Supreme Court (SC) had directed all the State Governments to formulate a policy for eviction of unauthorised occupation of common land in 2011, the Odisha Government is yet to work on the directive.

Sources said the Government land like Gochar (grazing land), Jalchar (water sources), Patra jungle (minor forest), Smasan (cremation ground), Anabadi (unused land) and Dera Ghar  (meant for construction of rest house) are encroached by influential people in most of villages and towns in the district.

As per the District Statistical Hand Book published in 2009, the district had 56,239 hectare (ha) of forest cover, 52,419 ha to be used for non-agricultural purposes, 16,071 ha of barren and non-cultivable land, 40,026 ha of permanent pasture and grazing land, 1162 ha of land for miscellaneous use and 22932 ha of cultivable waste land. Similarly, as per Patna State Settlement in 1936, there were 9087 water harvesting structures in the district.

Village common land was used for public utility purposes including playground, water bodies, grazing of cattle and cremation since long. Gradually, this type of land was encroached by influential people depriving villagers of community use.

Similarly, in industrial areas, water bodies and forest cover have declined drastically. The heavily silted small ponds having limited water holding capacity have mostly disappeared. During land settlement, influential people in the villages managed to record such land in their favour.

A study conducted by Rastra Bharati, a social organisation working on land issues, in 20 villages of Bangomunda and Turekela blocks in 2013-14 revealed that the size and productivity of common land have declined by 75-80 per cent during the last 50 years.

According to environment experts, destruction of traditional water harvesting systems has impacted the ground water recharge process leading to water shortage and drought in the district. Balangir region is prone to drought than any other natural calamity. Between 1965 and 2014, it was under the grip of drought on 14 occasions.

Patnagarh town used to have around 120 water bodies and almost all nearby villages had their own water bodies. But now, those have disappeared. Similarly, Narayan Sagar, a large water body in Loisingha, which was constructed over 133 acres of land by the then zamindar Narayan Singh Roy in 1857, has vanished.
When contacted, Collector M Muthukumar said he had not received any instruction from the State Government on SC’s directives. After getting the same, he will act as per the guidelines, the Collector added.

It's now official: Gujarat's 65% of the common village land encroached upon by vested interests, corporates

October 25, 2014

By Our Representative
It is now official. A recent survey, quoting Gujarat government sources, has found that, despite loud claims, Gujarat would be suffering from a shortage of a whopping 65 per cent of the common village land, meant for grazing of cattle. Carried out by a team of activists working under the Maldhari Rural Action Group (MARAG), an Ahmedabad-based non-profit organisation, the survey was carried in 90 villages in three districts – Kutch, Patan and Surendranagar. The survey uniquely juxtaposed the spot analysis in each of the villages and the government data on gauchar – as the grazing land is identified – and found that there is not much difference between the two.

Quoting official government sources, the survey said, in the 30 villages of Nakhatra taluka of Kutch district, there should have been 24,880.8 acres of land for 65,317 cattle, if the official norm of 40 acre for 100 cattleheads is to be maintained. However, the survey found that only 2,736.1 acres of land existed as gauchar, suggesting a shortfall of 74.08 per cent. Based on interviews with cattle breeders or maldharis, the survey found that there was not much difference – the cattle breeders said, there should have been 24,448 acres land, while only 3,735 acres existed for 61,211 cattleheads.

The situation was found to be not very different for 30 villages taken up for survey in Shankheshwar taluka of Patan district, where, officially, there should have been 11,278 acres of gauchar land, though only 4,290.9 acres (or 37 per cent of the actual requirement) was available for 28,195 cattleheads. Similarly, in the 30 villages surveyed in the Patdi taluka of Surendrangar district, there should have been 10,180 acres of land, while only 5,083.23 acres (or 50 per cent) gauchar was available to feed 25,450 cattleheads. In Patan and Surendranagar district also, the surveyors did not find much discrepancy between official and maldhari figures.

A short analysis of the survey said that in none of the villages did the team found the norm of 40 villages per acre has been maitantained. “According to the complaints we received, most of the gauchar land has either been encroached upon by vested interests or has been illegally handed over for industrial or other commercial use”, the analysis said, adding, “We also found that that there has not been any land measurement of the area required for cattle in Gujarat villages. A spot survey needs to be carried out by the revenue department officials for this on a regular interval.”

The survey demanded that not only the norm of 40 acres of gauchar land for every 100 cattleheads should be maintained, efforts should also be made to ensure that encroachments are removed, so that the maldharis are able to eke their livelihood. “In fact, the government should initiate formation of maldhari committees in each village for this”, the analysis said, adding, “Lack of common village land for grazing purposes is one of the reasons why the problem of stray cattle has come into existence.”

The analysis sought to blame dominant sections of two important communities of – Patel and Darbar – for cornering and encroaching upon most of the gauchar land. “Grasslands were either encroached upon either by the dominant sections of the two communities or by people having farms next the grasslands”, it said, adding, “The government has not allacated land to the landless, and instead allowed it to pass it on to powerful persons. The situation is that 80 per cent of the Kadamm community in Kutch and Surendranagar districts have been rendered landless. And those who have been allocated land, it is mostly not irrigable.” 

Meanwhile, senior activists believe that Kutch's maldharis have suffered the most because of post-2001 killer quake industrialisation, in which entrepreneurs were given huge concessions to set up shop. Talking to Counterview, a representative from the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan, who participated in a recent Asian activists' meet in North Gujarat, said that a separate survey of Mundra taluka, where the Adanis have set up a modern port and a special economic zone, suggested that in as many as 11 villages all gauchar land has disappeared. “Plans to survey and provide land have not been successful either”, the activist added.