Illegal land sale report tabled,Cong on backfoot

The opposition Congress,which has been on the offensive against the BJP government over sale of land to outsiders,suffered a blow on Thursday after the inquiry report of the one-man commission,that probed the issue,claimed to have detected large-scale violations of land laws with most of them occurring during the previous Congress regime.

Written by Ashwani Sharma | Shimla | Published: April 6, 2012 1:17 am

The opposition Congress,which has been on the offensive against the BJP government over sale of land to outsiders,suffered a blow on Thursday after the inquiry report of the one-man commission,that probed the issue,claimed to have detected large-scale violations of land laws with most of them occurring during the previous Congress regime.

The one-man body,headed by a former judge of the state high court,Justice D P Sood,was set-up by the state government to probe allegations of benami land deals and violations of section 118 of the HP Tenancy and Land Refoms Act,1972. Its report was tabled in the House on Thursday.

The report also recommended the scrapping of the controversial HP Apartment and Property regulations Act,2005 and has categorically told the government to either abolish section 118 of the HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act or implement it strictly to protect small agriculture land-holdings in Himachal Pradesh.

The commission has conveyed its strong displeasure as how prime land in the state was allowed to be sold to non-agriculturists and outsiders with full conveyance of the government and its officials. It recommended for confiscation of at least 42 proprieties illegally acquired by certain individuals and firms between 2006 and 2007-when the Congress’ Virbhadra Singh was the chief minister.

“The commission strongly feel that builders from serial no 1 to 42 ( a total of 62 ),who were allowed to build apartments by diverting hundreds of bighas of land,should be sternly dealt with as per section 118 and HP Apartment and Property Regulations Act by vesting their land into the state free from all encumbrances”,the report reads. In its 147-page document,the commission also noted with concern the serious environmental violations committed by the builders/colonisers,whom it accuses of creating concrete jungles after felling trees and dumping debris on forested slopes and national highways. The violation of construction norms and Town and Country Planning rules are other glaring highlights of the mess,resulting out of violations of section 118,the report adds.

The properties of Tibetans has also come under the commission’s close scrutiny,which has found 80 cases of violations of section 118 of HP Tenancy and Land Reforms Act 1972 at Dharamshala,Palampur,Baijnath,Rewalsar (Mandi),Jawali,Jawalamukhi,Nurpur and Indora. It,however,recommended for framing a policy for Tibetan refugees as their population was increasing and they are buying lands in villages,towns and cities.

The commission has found that there have been glaring instances where the government committed violations in allowing resale of the purchased land for industrial purpose and other land use changes. It cites the case of the Pune-based M/S Indian Card Clothing company that caused an undue loss of Rs 4.45 crore to the state by re-selling the property of Himalayan Fertilizers for Rs 7.51 crores within a short time after buying it from a state PSU at Rs 3.06 crores in December 2004. “ The matter should be inquired and guilty be punished”,the report says .

It also made a strong recommendation for imposing a total ban on resale of the land and changes of the land use purchased for a specific purpose after relaxation of section 118 except for genuine reasons.The commission noted that the government has been unfair in granting and rejecting permissions under section 118. In some cases,the lands have been allowed to be sold making the owners landless. It also came down on middlemen operating in the state facilitating sale and resales of the lands to outsiders.

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