Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mafia Occupies Rs 2,000-cr Panchayat Land: Report

Vishav Bharti |Tribune News Service, Chandigarh | December 21 

It seems the land mafia has had a free run in the state all these years. Common village land worth Rs 2,000 crore, owned by panchayats, is in illegal possession of the mafia. The fact came to the fore during an internal report prepared by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats recently.

According to the report, 20,800 acres is in illegal possession of the land mafia and influential individuals. According to a rough estimate, if the department gets back the possession of the land from the mafia it can generate revenue of Rs 50 crore annually from it.

Out of the total land, more than 60 per cent falls in just four districts of the state. In district-wise breakup, Chief Minister’s home district Patiala tops the chart.

In Patiala alone, 4,854 acres (25 per cent of the total land) is in illegal possession. It is followed by Kapurthala with 3,411; Fatehgarh Sahib 2,436 and Jalandhar 1,967 acres.

Despite having powers to protect village panchayats given under constitutional provisions, the department officials have failed to protect the land.

There are examples when department officials didn’t settle panchayat land disputes over five years. In the recent past, the Panchayat Union, Punjab, had also alleged a high-level nexus between land mafia and department officials.

The union had also alleged that the officials were using their powers to settle panchayat land dispute cases in favour of the land mafia.

With an aim to watch the interest of panchayats, the department officials under the Punjab Village Common Lands Regulation Act, 1961, were given powers to hear the cases related to panchayat lands and jurisdiction of civil courts was barred.

As per the Act, where individuals claim the ownership over shamlat land, responsibility lies upon individuals to prove that they are cultivating possession as per his share in shamlat land since or before January 26, 1950, which is hard to prove.

Earlier this year, the issue was also raised in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha when a joint development commissioner, who had powers to listen the land dispute of panchayats, settled around 70 cases in favour of private individuals just nine months before his retirement.

Recently the department officials had also instructed the district-level department officials to settle the panchayat dispute cases within three months.

Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats Tript Rajinder Bajwa said the process of eviction from the panchayat land was on. He accepted that there were some delays at different levels when it came to department officials acting to get back the panchayat lands.

Why village common land matters

The panchayats in the state own 1.7 lakh acres, of which 1.42 lakh acres is auctioned for annual cultivation. It is one of the main sources of revenue for the department. This year, the department generated Rs 307 crore from the auction of common village lands across the state. The money is later spent on the overall development of villages.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Member Of Panchayat Can’t Claim Immunity From Disqualification While Insisting To Encroach Upon Govt Land: Bombay HC

Nitish Kashyap|LiveLaw| December 20, 2017

The Bombay High Court has held that no member of a village Panchayat can insist upon encroaching on government land and have immunity from disqualification under the Maharasthra Village Panchayat Act, 1958.
Justice MS Sonak set aside an order of the Additional Commissioner, Pune Division and allowed the writ petition.

Case Background:
The writ petition was filed b one Satish Deshmukh who challenged an order by the Additional Commissioner, Pune Division, dated August 21, 2013. By this order, an order of the Assistant Collector dated February 28, 2013, disqualifying the respondent as a member of the village Panchayat at Karkamb, was set aside.
The respondent was disqualified by the Assistant Collector in exercise of powers under Section 14 (1) of the Village Panchayat Act, 1958.

Submissions and Judgment:
Petitioner’s counsel SS Aradhye submitted that both adjudicating authorities in this case, the Additional Commissioner as well as the Assistant Collector, concurrently held that the respondent member had indeed encroached upon the government land.

However, the Additional Commissioner, by observing that this encroachment had taken place so man years ago in 1996 has unjustifiably absolved respondent No. 3 from the taint of disqualification, Aradhye submitted.

Aradhye also argued that as long as encroachment on the government property continues, respondent No. 3, would be liable to be disqualified under the provisions of Section 14 (l)(j3) of the said Act.
On the other hand, respondent member’s lawyer AR Metkari argued that his client’s term as member of Panchayat had come to an end in October this year which makes the petition infructuous.
He further submitted that in Narayan A Borsae vs State of Maharasthra, it was held that the section of Panchayats Act does not provide for disqualification spading beyond the term of Sarpanch or a member found guilty of misconduct. He submitted that since, the alleged encroachment, was made in the year 1996, it is irrelevant for determining disqualification of his client who was elected as a member of the Panchayat for the term 2012-17.
The court referred to the judgement of the apex court in Sagar P Dhundare vs Keshav Aaba Patil and Ors, wherein it was held that encroachment on public property or government property is certainly to be condemned, encroacher evicted and punished.
After hearing both parties, the court agreed with the submissions by the petitioner’s counsel and noted: “Section 14 (l) (j3) of the said Act inter alia provides that not person shall be a member of a Panchayat or continue as such, ho, has encroached upon Government land or pubic property. This means that disqualification attaches to a person from being a member of the Panchayat as well as from continuing as a member of Pnachayat. The Statement of Objects and Reasons for the amendment by which this provision was introduced in the said Act indicates that the purpose was to disqualify the person, who has encroached upon Government land or public property from becoming a member of the Panchayat or too continue as such.”
Thus, the court set aside the order of the Additional Commissioner in order to avoid a situation where the respondent continues to encroach on government land and get re-elected as a member of Panchayat.

The judgement can be read at:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Meppayur Panchayat to Reclaim 500 Acres Barren Land

Express News Service | 3 December, 2017

KOZHIKODE: The residents of Meppayur panchayat have set a model for restoring their agricultural land by coming together with a mission to convert a 500-acre paddy field lying abandoned for over three decades into a fertile one. As part of the initiative, over 4,500 people from all walks of life, including school students, government employees, housewives, farmers and political leaders, are working towards restoring the Kandamchira, one of the largest paddy fields in the district. 

Meppayur panchayat president P K Reena said the project, being executed with the support of the Agriculture Department, is part of the effort to convert all barren agricultural land spread across the local body limit into a fertile one. 

“The Kandamchira, which is spread over 500-acres, is one of the largest paddy fields in the district. But the land was in an abandoned state for over three decades. And the reclamation project was planned with public support to make it cultivable.” “For the same, services of various organisations like Kudumbashree, youth organisations, political parties, schools students, MGNREGS employees and cultural forums will be made use of,” she said.

As a preliminary step, the focus is to make the land cultivable. Around 120 acres of land has been cleaned and made suitable for cultivation so far. The cleaning process is expected to be completed by the end of December, she said.Later, we will identify various groups interested to cultivate paddy and the field will be handed over to them for a particular year on rent, said the president.

“We will check the possibility of allotting the land to Kudumbashree mission or MGNREGS employees for cultivation,” she said.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

DDPO Directed to Remove Encroachment in Five Villages

Dilbag Singhn | 2 December, 2017 | Punjab Tribune

Nurmahal: The Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat Department had directed district development and Panchayat officer (DDPO) Jalandhar to remove encroachment in five villages of Jalandhar district.

In an official communication to DDPO, deputy director forwarded complaints received from residents of Bhandal Himmat village ,Baina Pur village in Nurmahal block,gram panchayat Chakral village in Jalandhar west block,residents of Usmaanpur village in Jalandhar tehsil and residents of Kakar Kalan village in Shahkot block.

Deputy director said that act under Punjab Village Common Land Regulation Act 1961 to remove encroachment from common land by conducting fresh demarcation and sent reports to this office.

Monday, November 27, 2017


Niranjan Kaggere | Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Nov 23, 2017

Though it claims to be 'humanitarian' in its approach, the Joint House Committee report on lake encroachment in and around Bengaluru does not offer much reprieve to the affected people. Instead of putting to rest the fears of the public, who are knowingly or otherwise encroaching upon lakes, the recommendations in the report have left them facing the threat of 'losing' their properties.

The 10-members committee, headed by Speaker KB Koliwad, verified land records spanning more than 10,000 pages and concluded that over 10,000 acres of lake area has been encroached upon by land sharks. The committee makes separate recommendations on how to clear private and government encroachment.

The report suggests regularisation of encroachment by BDA and other government agencies by fixing a lake development tax, but it orders either complete demolition or takeover of the properties like flats, apartments and gated communities built by private builders and housing societies and allotment of the properties to the same people on an annual lease agreement. "In case of encroachment of lakes by private authorities, the structures (residential buildings) have to be razed, provided there is scope for rejuvenation of the lakes. If there is no scope for rejuvenation, then the government must declare such lakes as dead and take over the properties. The properties can then either be re-allotted among the existing inhabitants for an annual lease rate or be handed over to inhabitants in lieu of payment of one-time settlement fee," Koliwad said.

On commercial buildings, the report says, "If there is no scope for rejuvenation of lake, the government must either demolish the buildings or if demolition were to be considered of national waste, then the government must maintain those buildings." While the report suggested confiscation of properties of builders and officials responsible for encroachment, the report offers no clarity on who these officials are and who should initiate action against officers, who colluded with the land sharks.

"There are more than 5,000 encroachers and it is impossible to pinpoint each and every encroacher. As a committee, we are only submitting recommendations to the House and the government can take further action," Koliwad added in way of explanation.

The committee has also suggested abiding by the NGT ruling over the extent of buffer zones.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Community Forests, Common Lands Threatened by New Plantation Guidelines

India Finance News | 10 November, 2017

NEW DELHI: New guidelines on identification of lands to conduct “compensatory afforestation” issued by the union environment ministry threatens to deprive forest dwellers’ access to customary community forests.

In a letter sent to all state governments on November 8, 2017, the ministry said “the revenue lands, zudpi jungle, chhote-bade jhar ka jungle, jungle jhari land, waste lands and others… shall be considered for the purpose of compensatory afforestation.” Most state governments had been facing severe shortage of land to conduct compensatory afforestation. Every time any forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes like mining or industry, the user agency—private or public-sector project is supposed to “afforest” an area of the same size of the forests that were diverted, to make up for the ecological loss. Since these plantations do not immediately provide the ecological services that the natural forest that was cut down would provide, the law requires the user agency to compensate the loss by paying the “net present value (NPV)” of the forests for the next 50 years. The NPV, calculated by a panel of experts is anywhere between Rs 5 to 11 lakh depending on the type and quality of forests that were diverted.

The letter quoted guidelines issued by the ministry in 2003 on implementation of the forest conservation act 1980 which states compensatory afforestation can be allowed on community forests provided those lands are notified as revenue forests. “The application of GIS based decision support system (DSS) by the ministry suggests that in many cases a substantial portion of land identified for compensatory afforestation already contain vegetation of varying density. Creation of compensatory afforestation on these lands will not fully compensate the loss of trees and there will not be enough space for requisite number of plants to be planted,” the letter states adding that “outright rejection of such non-forest land for compensatory afforestation is not desirable. However, once such lands have been selected for compensatory afforestation, they are required to be transferred to the state forest department and brought under its regular control management.”

Further, the letter adds that some amendments have been made to the earlier definition of compensatory afforestation in the 2003 guidelines. The amends state that the “purpose of compensatory afforestation is to compensate loss of land by land and loss of trees by trees,” if requisite number of trees i.e 1000 per ha cannot be planted in the non-forest land identified for compensatory afforestation, then it can be planted in degraded forest lands. The document also states that compensatory afforestation can include “soil and moisture conservation, regeneration cleaning and silvicultural activities in addition to plantation.”

The letter also asks for expediting creation of land banks for “speedy disposal of forest clearance proposals.” It adds that priority for inclusion in the land banks will be given to degraded forest lands with crown density up to 40% under forest department, wildlife corridors, catchments of rivers etc. While this may boost conservation of degraded forests in India, the letter doesn’t mention forest rights of tribals and other forest dwellers.

Forest rights experts and activists are up in arms against the new guidelines. “There is no mention of the forest rights act or the rights already vested in these lands. We had strongly criticized this earlier as all these lands are community lands with substantive rights vested in them. But that was before the forest rights act (FRA) had been enacted. Now with the FRA in force, and all these lands claimable as community forests, requiring that these be converted into a land bank for compensatory afforestation is criminal and must be challenged,” said Madhu Sarin, forest rights expert.

TOI had highlighted last year that dense natural forests around some villages in Odisha are being cleared to conduct compensatory afforestation. Forest communities have been protesting these plantations for years now. The particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs), who are entirely forest dependent, do not approve of the species that are being planted as they do not supplement their diverse food basket. The plantations are also causing a fodder scarcity for elephants.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Illegal Mining on Panchayat Land Threatens Ecology at Moga Vllage

Kulwinder Sandhu Tribune News Service | November 6, 2017 | Moga

Illegal mining and encroachment have been reported on the panchayat land at Janer village in Moga district.

The Rural Development and Panchayat Department has conducted a preliminary inquiry and found that top soil (earth) from 25-acre panchayat land has been sold by the village sarpanch in connivance with senior leaders of the Akali Dal during the previous SAD-BJP government between 2014 and 2016.

Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) Jagir Singh has sent a detailed report in this regard to the district collector, who has further referred it to the district mining officer for financial assessment of the total losses.

According to an estimate, the top soil of the fertile land worth Rs 2 crore has been allegedly sold to the nearby brick kilns for making bricks.

“I have seen tractor-trailers and trucks loaded with soil coming out of the panchayat land and going to the brick kilns,” said Balwinder Singh. a local resident.

When this correspondent visited the panchayat land on the Janer-Dhalleke link road, it was found that the whole stretch of the panchayat land has been deeply excavated posing danger to the local ecology. The ground level of the panchayat land is 8 to 10 ft deeper than the nearby fields.

Local residents said illegal mining operations were done during the intervening period of harvesting and sowing of the crops. The residents revealed that senior leadership of the Akali Dal was also hand in glove with the sarpanch in the illegal mining operations.

When contacted, sarpanch Malwinder Singh Kali denied the allegations and said he had just leveled the panchayat land. No illegal mining was done by him. “Officials of the Rural Development and Panchayat Department are harassing him under political influence after the change of guard in the state,” he said.

“I have also filed court cases against officials of the the Rural Development and Panchayat Department in the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as in a local court for harassing me,” he added.

On the other hand, one could also see widespread encroachment on the great mound of Janer, which is roughly 7,000 sq ft in area and about 30 ft in height. It is spread in a total area of about 100 acres.

The mound is covered with encroachments in the form of houses, gurdwara and grain market. It has a pond and a waste stretch also.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Green Shoots of Dignity Sprout in Dalits’ Fields

Radheshyam Jadhav | TNN | Nov 1, 2017

BEED: Struggle has forever been a constant in Kantabai Ichake's life. The septuagenarian Dalit farmer from the Marathwada region in Maharashtra is from one of the most disadvantaged and oppressed communities in the country. And a chronic drought makes living that much harder. So, when Dalit women across Marathwada staked their claim to the 'gairan' land (common grazing land in a village) for cultivation, others in the village ridiculed them. "You will bang your heads on the rocky land and die," they said.

But with no other option left, these women put their heads down and got to work. 

Within a few years, they turned barren patches into lush green fields. 

And that's when the problems started. Women claiming ownership to land and successfully growing crops predictably riled upper-caste villagers. Mobs destroyed crops, burnt Dalit hamlets and attacked women and children. Still, they were unable to stop the Dalits from tilling the 'gairan' soil. 

Kantabai, a prominent face in the land rights movement in Marathwada (comprising of eight districts: Jalna, Aurangabad, Parbhani, Hingoli, Nanded, Latur, Osmanabad and Beed) that was started by late Eknath Awad, recalls the horrors — humiliation, physical violence and exploitation. 

"What people do not realise is that it is not just about our livelihood, it is also about our rights and dignity. We will continue our fight. We are not scared of the struggle. We will continue to demand that the government transfer land titles to our names. The government says 'gairan' land belongs to the village, and it must be kept for grazing cattle. 

Is the government more worried about cattle than people like us?" Kantabai asks. 

The ownership of 'gairan' land has become a contentious issue in the Marathwada region. According to the Jamin Adhikar Andolan (JAA), a land rights movement, 'gairan' land belonged to the Dalits in pre-independence India. Activists claim that even in Marathwada, then a part of the Nizam's Hyderabad, 'gairan' lands had been conferred to the Dalits. 

They substantiate their claim with the Nizam's order from old archives. The lands were brought under the gram panchayat's management in 1956. In the 1990s, the JAA was set up to seek legalization of the Dalit title over 'gairan' land. 

The JAA wants the land title to be made jointly in the names of husband and wife. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

No eco clearance for Nitesh's apartment project on 'lake land'

Bosky Khanna|Deccan Herald|Bengaluru, 26 October, 2017

The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) has rejected the application of Nitesh Urban Development Pvt Ltd for environmental clearance to its residential apartment project at Bhoganahalli village in Bengaluru South taluk.

The developer wants to construct apartments in two parcels of land on a total plot area of 44,880.93 square metres. The SEIAA’s rejection came on October 12.

“We refused the environmental clearance because the land where the project has been proposed is lake land. Bengaluru has been witnessing flash floods lately. If such projects are cleared, the chances of flooding will only rise,” Ramachandra, member secretary, SEIAA, told DH.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, environmental clearance is mandatory for any large housing and infrastructure project. 

The developer wants to construct apartments with lower and upper basements, a ground floor and 13 floors and a stair headroom with 297 units each in two parcels of land in survey numbers 22, 23/1, 23/2, 24, 25/2, 26/1f, 26/2, 27, 28, 29/1, 29/2, 29/3 and 29/4 at Bhoganahalli.

At the meeting, SEIAA members also noted that the proposed site is in a low-lying area that would be prone to inundation. Therefore, the construction of such a large residential complex will be unsuitable, they stressed. 

The minutes of the meeting, a copy of which has been seen by DH, mention that the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), too, had taken note of the ambiguity regarding the Bhoganahalli waterbody in Survey No 29 at its meeting on February 27, 2017.

The SEIAA noted that section 14 (2) of the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) Act, 2014, bans construction on any lakebed. Both the SEIAA and the SEAC feared the construction would affect the buffer area as the company’s proposal does not show any other approach road to the project site.

The SEIAA also stated that the land belongs to the gram panchayat and as per the Supreme Court orders of January 28, 2011, in civil appeal number 1132/2011, the land should be restored to the panchayat for the common use of villagers (locals). 

On February 23 this year, the SEIAA had refused to give environmental clearance to 28 developers/companies that had been seeking it since 2014. Among the companies were Mantri Techzone Private Limited and Coremind Software and Services Private Limited.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ensure Redressal of Pending Cases in 3 Months, Staff Told

Tribune News Service | Mohali|  October 15, 2017

While tightening noose around those possessing panchayati lands illegally, the Secretary of Rural Development and Panchayat Department directed the staff to ensure the redressal of all pending cases within three months under the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act and Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961.

Issuing directions, Anurag Verma, Secretary of the department, said the warrant to possession should be issued after following the proper procedure as per law within one month of issuing the eviction notice and then possession should be taken within one month after coordinating with the Revenue Department.

Verma said checking at offices of District Development and Panchayat officers would be conducted after November 15 and if any kind of dereliction would be noticed for non-issuance of warrant to possession as per above said timeline, then the District Development and Panchayat Officer and Block Development and Panchayat Officer concerned would be held responsible.

“Checking regarding cases found pending beyond December 15 and regarding implementation of the possession notice would be carried out and if any case found pending beyond three months or if found that the implementation of the possession notice is pending beyond the prescribed timeline, then the officer concerned would be held responsible,” the Secretary said.

Verma said while conducting an inquiry of the Gram Panchayat, Teeda Block, Majri District, it was noticed that the officials concerned took over five years to resolve a pending case under Section 7 of the Act. Besides, it was also noticed that the eviction notice was issued by the District Development and Panchayat Officer, Mohali, on June 6 last year but even after a lapse of 18 months, possession was not taken by issuing warrant to possession.

He said during the checking of the District Development and Panchayat Office, Kapurthala, it was found that an eviction notice was issued for a 1790-acre land of which warrant to possession was issued only for 446 acres and actual possession was taken for only 80 acres.


Issuing directions, Anurag Verma, Secretary of the Rural Development and Panchayat Department, said the warrant to possession should be issued after following the proper procedure as per law within one month of issuing the eviction notice and then possession should be taken within one month after coordinating with the Revenue Department.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Villagers in India's Rajasthan Reclaim Common Land with Maps, Petitions

Rina Chandran Thomas Reuters Foundation | 10 October, 2017 |Hastinapur, Rajasthan 

It took residents of Hastinapur village in the Indian state of Rajasthan three years of poring over maps, demarcating boundaries, and numerous petitions and visits to local officials to regain control of their traditional common land.

But the wait - and the effort - were worth it, they say.

The 35 hectares (87 acres) of land now registered to the community have changed the lives of the 50 families because they are now able to safely graze their cattle, meet most of their need of fodder and firewood, and supplement their incomes.

The lush green grounds teeming with native trees and scrub were once arid, encroached by a neighbouring village. They are testament to the success the state has had with restoring the commons even as industrial demand for land rises.

“Before we got back the land, the women had to walk some distance to graze the cattle, cut firewood, and we had to buy additional fodder,” Gopal Jat, a village elder, said as he sat in the shade of a leafy jamun tree.

“Now we can graze our cattle without worries, the women and children need not go anywhere else for fodder or firewood, and we earn some money from selling produce. It took time, but this is our land now, no one can take it from us,” he said.

Commons make up more than a third of India’s total land area. They include grazing grounds, some forest land, ponds, rivers and other areas that all members of a rural community can access and use.

They provide food, water, fodder, firewood and livelihoods to rural communities, particularly the poor, while also helping recharge groundwater and maintain the land’s ecological balance.

As the population grew and demand for land rose, commons were taken over for industrial and development projects, including roads, mines, power plants and homes.

“Access to the commons and its resources has long been a customary right of rural communities,” said Shantanu Sinha Roy, a manager at advocacy Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) which helped Hastinapur regain control of its commons.

“But that right has been increasingly denied. When communities regain control, their livelihoods improve, and the land regains its original character, with the soil and water conserved,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


The majority of land conflicts in India are related to common land, according to a study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Common land in India has deteriorated by about half over the last five decades because of encroachments, insecure tenure rights for local communities and a lack of trust in communities in managing them, according to data from FES.

Many were classified as “wastelands” or government land and diverted for quarrying, biofuel cultivation, mines and other commercial purposes, displacing and depriving local communities.

About half the country’s rural households rely on forests and common land for their livelihood activities, and the loss of commons has hurt farmers, weavers and potters, and triggered migration to the cities for jobs.

The 2006 Forest Rights Act and an older law to protect land of indigenous people recognised their and forest dwellers customary rights to forest land and commons.

Environmentalists - and even musicians - are appealing for the protection of common land to safeguard livelihoods and protect against climate-change impacts.

But states can deny these rights, or change the classification of commons and take them over, particularly in resource-rich areas it deems critical for development.

“States do not distinguish between common land and other lands, and rarely respect customary usage or communities’ claims over common lands,” said Shankar Gopalakrishnan at rights group Campaign for Survival and Dignity.

“When these lands are taken, the effects include pollution, damage to the water table and changes in the ecosystem that result in loss of livelihoods with no compensation,” he said.


The Supreme Court in 2011 recognised the importance of commons to rural economies, and ordered states to remove encroachments and hand over management to village councils.

Rajasthan, where commons make up 40 percent of total land area, was the first state to draft a policy for commons.

The western Indian state called for the demarcation of commons, management by the community, engaging the help of research firms and non-profits, ensuring sustainability, and ending privatisation except in “very special and exceptional” conditions.

As of 2015, about 340,000 acres of commons were managed by 1.5 million people in Rajasthan, according to FES, which is using satellite imagery to map the commons in three states.

In villages that have regained their commons, distress migration has been stemmed, water tables have risen and no new mining projects have been announced, Roy said. .

But progress elsewhere has been limited.

“The Supreme Court judgment didn’t significantly change the situation on the ground, as states shifted the onus for implementation to communities and non profits,” said Kanchi Kohli at think tank Centre for Policy Research in Delhi.

“Commons are less of a concern for the state than other land-related issues. Within communities too, management can be complicated by caste politics and social hierarchy,” she said.

In Hastinapur and in Barundani, about 35 km (22 miles) away though, the families all come together not just to use the commons, but also to care for them and guard the land from encroachers, said Roy.

The fight for the commons has also empowered women in one of the most traditional parts of the country where women cover their heads, and normally do not speak in front of men.

“When access to water and firewood was limited, women bore the brunt of it. They were also not consulted on matters in the village,” said Roy.

“Now, they sit in on meetings, they are part of the decision making on the commons and other matters. The economic value of the commons is important, but there are also social and ecological aspects that are equally important,” he said. 

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit to see more stories.)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Failure to Retrieving State Land: HC Directs DC Shopian’s Personal Appearance

MAROUF ALI | Kashmir Observer | Srinagar | OCTOBER 8, 2017

The apex court (in the Jagpal Singh and others v. State of Punjab and others, 2011) has laid down that illegalities committed in nature of usurpation of common lands of the village communities cannot be regularized and the common interest of the villagers cannot be made to suffer merely because the unauthorized occupation has subsisted for many years.

Srinagar—The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed personal appearance of Deputy Commissioner Shopian on November 9 for failure to retrieve ‘Kahcharai’ (pasture land) and other state land from the encroachers in the south Kashmir district.

The directions were passed by the court while hearing a plea with one Ghulam Hassan Mir alleging violation of judgment passed by the court on May last year. The court has directed authorities to ensure retrieving of ‘Kahcharai’ and other state land from the encroachers in general and from the three private persons—Bashir Ahmad Mir, Shakeel Ahmad Mir and Ghulam Nabi Mir in particular, with reference to implementation of judgment passed by apex court.

The apex court (in the Jagpal Singh and others v. State of Punjab and others, 2011) has laid down that illegalities committed in nature of usurpation of common lands of the village communities cannot be regularized and the common interest of the villagers cannot be made to suffer merely because the unauthorized occupation has subsisted for many years.

It had directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States to formulate the schemes for eviction of illegal and unauthorized occupants of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat, Shamilat Land for the common use of villagers.

The high court had also directed that out of the land in question an area of 10 marlas, shall be subject to the decision that shall be taken by the authorities on an application pending for such consideration and if the exchange offered was not found feasible, then the land shall also be retrieved.

Upon notice Deputy Commissioner Shopian, filed the statement of facts and has averred that anti- encroachment drive in villages Turkawangam, Maldaira of Tehsil Choitragam had been under taken and 5 kanals and 1.5 marlas from the private persons and land measuring 22 kanal and 16 marlas grabbed by the petitioner, Ghulam Hassan Mir.

It is stated in the reply that for retrieving the state land, a committee of officers has been constituted which is headed by SDM Zainapora.

It is however, not disclosed in the statement of facts that as to what steps the committee has taken to ensure retrieval of stat land. When asked AAG submitted that the committee could not show any positive result as there was unrest in the Valley for seven months in the year 2016.

He could not, however, justify the inaction of committee from November, 2016 onwards.

“In the above background Deputy Commissioner Shopian, shall appear in person and explain as to why he has not implement the judgment,” the court said. The Officer shall also file compliance by or before the next date on November 9, the court added. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

In Other Courts: Allahbad High Court--Yogesh Kumar vs State of U.P & 8 others

Court No. - 6 

Case :- PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION (PIL) No. - 42202 of 2017 

Petitioner :- Yogesh Kumar 
Respondent :- State Of U.P. & 8 Others 
Counsel for Petitioner :- Vinod Kumar Singh,Chandra Bhan Gupta 
Counsel for Respondent :- C.S.C.,Diwakar Singh 

Hon'ble B. Amit Sthalekar,J. 

Heard Sri Chandra Bhan Gupta, learned counsel for the petitioner, Sri Diwakar Singh, learned counsel for the respondent no.4 and the learned Standing Counsel for the respondents no.1 to 3. 
In view of the nature of the order sought to be passed it is not necessary to issue any notice to the respondents no.5 to 9.
This Public Interest Litigation Petition has been filed for a direction to the respondent no.2 to remove illegal encroachment alleged to have been made by the respondents no.5 to 9 over the Araji No.482, area 0.3310 hectare situated in Village Sarain Jodh Rai, Pargana Sikandera, Tehsil Phoolpur, District Allahabad. It is stated that the said Araji is shown in the revenue records as Pond, copy of which has been filed as Annexure-1 to the writ petition. 
Reliance has been placed on a Division Bench judgment of this Court in Public Interest Litigation Petition No.63380 of 2012 (Prem Singh Vs. State of U.P. and Others) wherein the Division Bench has directed that if the complaints regarding unauthorised occupation over the public ponds or other similar public lands are received by the District Magistrate of a District, he should take all the required actions in view of the law already settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Jagpal Singh and Others Vs. State of Punjab and Others reported in (2011) 11 SCC 396. Paragraphs 13, 15, 16, 18, 23 and 24 of Jagpal Singh (supra) read as under: 
"13. We find no merit in this appeal. The appellants herein were trespassers who illegally encroached on to the Gram Panchayat land by using muscle power/money power and in collusion with the officials and even with the Gram Panchayat. We are of the opinion that such kind of blatant illegalities must not be condoned. Even if the appellants have built houses on the land in question they must be ordered to remove their constructions, and possession of the land in question must be handed back to the Gram Panchayat. Regularizing such illegalities must not be permitted because it is Gram Sabha land which must be kept for the common use of villagers of the village. 
15. In M.I. Builders (P) Ltd. vs. Radhey Shyam Sahu, 1999(6) SCC 464 the Supreme Court ordered restoration of a park after demolition of a shopping complex constructed at the cost of over Rs.100 crores. 

16. In Friends Colony Development Committee vs. State of Orissa, 2004 (8) SCC 733 this Court held that even where the law permits compounding of unsanctioned constructions, such compounding should only be by way of an exception. In our opinion this decision will apply with even greater force in cases of encroachment of village common land. Ordinarily, compounding in such cases should only be allowed where the land has been leased to landless labourers or members of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, or the land is actually being used for a public purpose of the village e.g. running a school for the villagers, or a dispensary for them.
18. The present is a case of land recorded as a village pond. This Court in Hinch Lal Tiwari vs. Kamala Devi, AIR 2001 SC 3215 (followed by the Madras High Court in L. Krishnan vs. State of Tamil Nadu, 2005(4) CTC 1 Madras) held that land recorded as a pond must not be allowed to be allotted to anybody for construction of a house or any allied purpose. The Court ordered the respondents to vacate the land they had illegally occupied, after taking away the material of the house. We pass a similar order in this case.
23. Before parting with this case we give directions to all the State Governments in the country that they should prepare schemes for eviction of illegal/unauthorized occupants of Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat/Poramboke/Shamlat land and these must be restored to the Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat for the common use of villagers of the village. For this purpose the Chief Secretaries of all State Governments/Union Territories in India are directed to do the needful, taking the help of other senior officers of the Governments. The said scheme should provide for the speedy eviction of such illegal occupant, after giving him a show cause notice and a brief hearing. Long duration of such illegal occupation or huge expenditure in making constructions thereon or political connections must not be treated as a justification for condoning this illegal act or for regularizing the illegal possession. Regularization should only be permitted in exceptional cases e.g. where lease has been granted under some Government notification to landless labourers or members of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, or where there is already a school, dispensary or other public utility on the land.
24. Let a copy of this order be sent to all Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories in India who will ensure strict and prompt compliance of this order and submit compliance reports to this Court from time to time." 
No useful purpose would be served by keeping this writ petition pending.
The writ petition is disposed of with the consent of the learned counsel for the parties with a direction to the respondent no.3, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Phoolpur, District Allahabad to enquire into the matter and pass appropriate orders keeping in mind the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Jagpal Singh (supra) as well as the judgment of the Division Bench of this Court passed in Public Interest Litigation Petition No.63380 of 2012 (Prem Singh Vs. State of U.P. and Others) within a period of three months from the date a certified copy of this order is received in his office. 
It is made clear that the Court has not adjudicated the claim of the petitioner on merit. 
Order Date :- 12.9.2017 
N Tiwari

This is an UNCERTIFIED copy for information/reference. For authentic copy please refer to certified copy only. In case of any mistake, please bring it to the notice of Deputy Registrar(Copying).


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Investigate whether grazing land has been encroached on, says HC

DNA Correspondent| October 5, 2017

The Gujarat High Court’s first division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and justice Vipul Pancholi has instructed the assistant government pleader on Wednesday to take instructions from the Surendranagar district collector on whether the allegations of the encroachment of grazing land for last 10 years has any substance.
It was hearing a petition of agriculturists from Surendranagar district who approached the high court with a prayer to get around 200 acre of Gauchar (grazing) land free from encroachment by politically and financially powerful persons.
After hearing the primary submission over the PIL moved by Zala Digvijaysinh and others from Raisangpur village through advocate SM Chudasama and Bhunesh Rupera, the court also noted that if the collector finds the allegation of encroachment to be true, whether the administration has any plan to get the land evacuated. Further hearing on the matter has been kept for October 11.
The petition alleged that around 30 politically and financially powerful persons of the village have encroached 200-acre gauchar land, earmarked by the government for 3,120 livestock in the village, for last 10 years. Though the petitioner and other villagers had raised the issue with Taluka Development Officer (TDO) and the district collector to remove the encroachment, no concrete action has been taken to free the land from encroachment.
It was further alleged that though the TDO and the district collector had issued notices to the village talati and sarpanch in 2015 to remove encroachment, no action has been taken till date.

The plea

The petition alleged that around 30 politically and financially powerful people in the village have encroached the 200-acre gauchar land, earmarked by the government for 3,120 livestock in the village for the last 10 years.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Billon residents up in arms against ‘illegal’ mining

The Tribune| Ludhiana, September 13

Residents of Billon village, Machhiwara, were up in arms against the senior government functionaries for not deciding their representation as directed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding illegal mining in the village.
They alleged that the administration was not taking any step to stop illegal mining of sand and minerals at the behest of gram panchayat and pressure of big-wigs.
Taking to the reporters here, former panch Gurmit Singh, Subedar Zora Singh, Kulwant Singh Khalsa and Surinder Singh distributed copies of the orders passed by Justice Surya Kant and Justice Sudhir Mittal directing the Deputy Commissioner Ludhiana, Director Mining, Department of Industries and Commerce, Director Rural Development and Panchayat for deciding the representation moved by villagers in shape of legal notice dated July 27, 2017, within two months from the date of receipt of the copy of the order. Billon residents up in arms against ‘illegal’ mining
Villagers of Billon, Machhiwara, show the High Court order in their writ petition against illegal mining. Tribune photo
Dalip Singh, Jora Singh and Paramjit Kaur of Billon village had filed a writ petition with a plea that under the garb of levelling the 9 acre shamlat land of the village, illegal mining was going on unabated. The villagers wanted to save their land, but the gram panchayat was justifying their decision.
It was alleged that the copy of orders were supplied to almost all offices, but nobody was interested in taking action for stopping illegal mining.
The said illegal action was being carried out in the shamlat land, which was very near to ancient monuments of Maqbara (tombs) of Bahadur Khan, Hussain Khan and Alawal Khan, which were declared protected monuments under the provisions of Punjab Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. More so, the specific prohibitory orders were issued on August 1, 2017, against any digging or excavation of any kind near the said protected monuments.
These villagers claim that if they would not get justice, they would again move the High Court with a request to initiate appropriate proceedings against the officers concerned.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pendu Mazdoor Union to hold protest

Tribune News Service, Jalandhar| September 7An enquiry has been marked by the Rural Development and Panchayat Department against the owner of Kapur farm milk factory at Fazalpur/Ghug where activists of the Pendu Mazdoor Union (PMU) had protested against the illegal digging out of soil from the land of village panchayat and for dumping toxic water.
Activists of the PMU, who first raised the issue had also announced that they would held a protest at Ghugg village on September 10.
Farm Block Development and Panchayat Officer, Jalandhar West, and Panchayat Officer Madan Mohan along with Panchayat Secretary Sukhdev Raj visited the site to enqire into the matter. Pendu Mazdoor Union to hold protest
A land where toxic water has been dumped by a private factory owner at Ghugg village. A Tribune photograph
The owner of the farm Jaideep Singh told officials that the land had been bought from the legal owner of the land.
An activist of the PMU Kashmir Singh Ghugshore said as per the law, the land could not be sold or bought, since it was the property of the panchayat.
He alleged that the soil had illegally been taken out from the land, for which JCB machines had been pushed into service.
He alleged that the workers of the farm were dumping dirty and toxic water into three acres causing damage to the land.
He said the activists had also received threats but they will not give up their struggle.
A letter regarding this was given to the District Magistrate, Jalandhar Rural. Applications were also submitted to District Development and Panchayat officer personally.
A letter regarding this had also been sent to the Chief Minister, leader of the opposition Sukhpal Khaira, Panchayat Minister and other senior officials.
The activists also declared that a gathering on the issue would be held at the Ghugg village on September 10 on the issue.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

HC sends Gwal Pahari dispute to civil court

Tribune News Service, Chandigarh| Aug 11, 2017

Less than six months after the controversial mutation of 464 acres of Gwal Pahari land in Gurgaon came under the judicial scanner, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today largely referred the matter to the civil court. The copy of the orders was not yet available.
Disposing of a majority of the pleas before it, the Bench of Justice SS Saron and Justice Avneesh Jhingan kept a couple of petitions pending while directing the parties concerned not to carry out construction, alienate the land or create third-party rights.
Situated in the foothills of the Aravallis, Gwal Pahari in Gurgaon district is close to New Delhi and Faridabad. The development is significant as Haryana, on a previous date of hearing, had asserted that the shamlat land was with the Municipal Corporation-Gurgaon (MCG).
The Bench was told that 164 acres of the total 464 acres had been vacated and 300 notices issued. No less than 139 persons had filed civil suits and stay had been ordered in some cases.
A petition in public interest was filed in the matter by Gurgaon resident-cum-RTI activist Harinder Dhingra for a CBI probe to find the persons involved in prime land mutation.
Alleging the involvement of bureaucrats, politicians and local revenue officials, he had claimed that ownership of the disputed land was with the gram panchayat of Gwal Pahari since 1940 and transferred to the MCG in 2010.
The then Financial Commissioner (Revenue), not competent to pass an order on mutation in 2012, had favoured some builders, he alleged. The order was passed on the application of a private party challenging the 2010 transfer of land.
The order was challenged by the MCG before the Financial Commissioner, who stayed the order. But in October 2015, another IAS officer had restored the order. Thereafter, the matter had reached the state government and a decision was taken for mutation of land in favour of the MCG.
But, this order, too, was declared void in January by District Collector TL Satyaprakash. This order was stayed by Gurgaon Divisional Commissioner D Suresh in February, the court was told.
The Bench had already made it clear that encroachments from shamlat or village common land were required to be removed by taking legal recourse. The Bench had added that ordering an inquiry into the matter would not help and the solution lay in following the Haryana Municipal Act.
The Bench asserted that the accepted position was that the land was with the MCG since 2010. “If it is shamlat land, provisions under Section 408-A need to be initiated and we will monitor it,” the Bench asserted. Section 408-A of the Haryana Municipal Act deals with power to evict persons from corporation premises and land.
The case
  • A petition in public interest was filed in the matter by Gurgaon resident-cum-RTI activist Harinder Dhingra for a CBI probe to find the persons involved in the mutation of 464 acres of Gwal Pahari land in Gurugram
  • Alleging the involvement of bureaucrats, politicians and local revenue officials, he had claimed that ownership of the disputed land was with the gram panchayat of Gwal Pahari since 1940 and transferred to the MCG in 2010.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Govt apathy chipping away at tribal rights

THE HANS INDIA |    Aug 09,2017 , 02:31 AM IST

Despite several enabling legislations that provide Adivasis self-autonomy, prohibit transfer of lands to non-tribals and also recognise their forest land rights, various organs of successive State governments initiated a number of measures that decisively undermine the initiatives of nodal agency – Tribal Welfare Department. These acts of sabotage are essentially related to non-implementation of the Land Transfer Regulations 1 of 70, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, and the Forest Rights Recognition Act 2006.

To undo historic injustice to adivasis, the Indian state enacted the Forest Rights Recognition Act, 2006 (FRA), which recognises and vests diverse pre-existing rights over forest land. But it is made ineffectual by grant of Community Forest Rights (CFR)  to Vana Samrakshana Samithis (VSSs), instead of Gram Sabhas, despite them being declared illegal by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Girijan Co-Operative Corporation (GCC) exercises monopoly over non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Governments continue to refuse to recognise habitat rights of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups and are responsible for non-conversion of forest/unsurveyed villages into revenue villages etc. 

The FRA recognises the rights of adivasis over the non-timber forests products including bamboo. No doubt, the AP government has laid more emphasis on individual forest land rights, but ignores community rights and community forest resources rights of adivasis. According to a study, the minimum available potential for Community Forest Resources in AP is estimated to be 35.01 lakhs acre.

The Gram Sabha has legal jurisdiction over this chunk of forest lands for its management and protection. However, the government distributed forest land pattas to 85,678 individuals over 2 lakh acres. In fact ensuring the rights of adivasis over the NTFP and provision for adequate market interventions for all NTFP products is the need of the hour. Such a step would help increase employment and income generation at local levels to poverty-stricken adivasis. 

The historical and legal perspective is that land in the Scheduled Area belongs to the tribals. Until and unless the contrary is proved, the land in occupation by non-tribals shall be deemed to have come through a transfer from tribals as per the Land Transfer Regulations (LTRs) (Amended) 1 of 1970. Although LTRs 1 of 1970 have been in force, its implementation has been rather poor. Survey and Settlement Department has granted settlement pattas in favour of non-tribals in violations of LTRs.

Such lands have not been restored to the tribals even by the officials empowered to do so. Politics and external drivers have undermined the objective of Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which protects land rights of tribals. Yet another threat is intrusion of non-tribals into the Scheduled Areas, which continues unchecked, changing the very character of the Scheduled Areas. 

Another major concern is large-scale displacement of tribals by projects like Polavaram and their settlement in other tribal areas, which often result in inter-tribal conflicts. This can be avoided by converting non-Scheduled Areas into Scheduled Areas for rehabilitation and resettlement purposes. The eminent domain based laws recognise individual ownership, but ignore community rights over common resources which are basic to their livelihood.

The tribals cannot claim ownership on community resources even if they have lived on them for centuries before the colonial laws were enacted, and cannot seek legal compensation on par with private lands. It is the major causation for unrest among the project-affected tribals. Its result is impoverishment and marginalisation of project-displaced tribals.

Political parties are disinterested in ensuring the realisation of dreams of adivasis for their self-governance as envisaged under the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act 1996.  The self-determination is a recognised right of indigenous peoples  as well as their rights over resources. The Indigenous Peoples Day being observed on August 9 is intended to remind the state of its obligations in implementing special constitutional provisions for the overall uplift of the tribals.

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Environment clearance hearing in Rajkot: Villagers raise concern over losing land to airport project

The district administration assured the villagers that their concerns related to the revenue department would be addressed soon,” Hemant Patel, Rajkot regional officer of GPCB, said.

By: Express News Service | Rajkot | Published:August 5, 2017 5:05 am

The residents of Hirasar and nearby villages in the district on Friday raised their concerns about losing their agricultural and grazing land to the proposed Rajkot greenfield airport project during a public hearing on environmental clearance. (Representational Image)

The residents of Hirasar and nearby villages in the district on Friday raised their concerns about losing their agricultural and grazing land to the proposed Rajkot greenfield airport project during a public hearing on environmental clearance. The Gujarat government has proposed to develop a greenfield airport at Hirasar, some 20 km east of Rajkot city on National Highway-27. It has plans to acquire around 1,025 hectare (ha) of land near the Hirasar and adjoining villages of Rajkot taluka, besides Garida and others in neighbouring Surendrangar district.

As much as 633 ha is forest land while 235 ha is government wasteland. Besides, 67 ha of guachar grazing land and 35 ha agricultural land will also be acquired while ha black trap mine land will be allocated by the government. The agricultural land forms only four per cent of the total land proposed to be acquired.

As part of the process to grant environmental clearance to the project, being executed by Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited (GUJSAIL), the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) held the public hearing at Hirasar village near Rajkot. Residents of eight villages falling in the 10-kilometre radius took part. Rajkot district collector Vikrant Pandey, sub-divisional magistrate Pragnesh Jani and officials of GUJSAIL were present at the hearing.

At the hour-long hearing, villagers raised questions about resettlement and rehabilitation packages. “The district administration assured the villagers that their concerns related to the revenue department would be addressed soon,” Hemant Patel, Rajkot regional officer of GPCB, said.

Hirasar village sarpanch Khimji Bhalgamadiya said they welcome the proposed project but need assurance about their properties and gauchar land. “There are more than 500 cattle in the village, which require grazing land. The project is also likely to affect several homes. Therefore, we sought an alternative gauchar and houses, with proper road connectivity along with drinking water and drainage facilities, for the affected villagers. The collector has assured us to look into our demands,” Bhalgamadiya told The Indian Express.

The sarpanch added the collector, however, did not give any direct answer on compensation for agricultural land. “He said it was yet to be decided,” said Bhalgamadiya. The collector could not be reached for comment.

On the other hand, Mahesh Pandya, founder director of NGO Paryavaran Mitra, Ahmedabad, and Dharmesh Mistry from Bharuch made written submissions at the hearing. The public hearing was part of environment impact assessment (EIA), on the basis of which clearance to a project is granted.
Airports and national highways fall in the category-I projects, for which EIAs and EC from Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change of the central government are mandatory. The Rajkot greenfield airport will be second international airport in the state after Ahmedabad. There is an operational airport within Rajkot city. But successive proposals of expanding it have failed due to land acquisition and state highway- 25 lining its eastern boundary.