The district administration has ordered a probe following a complaint against Dera Radha Sawami for allegedly constructing a boundary wall and fencing around more than 70 acres of land belonging to Wraich village, in an attempt to make it a part of its headquarters spread into hundreds of acres in Beas town of Amritsar district.
Dera allegedly fenced this land around four years back.
Some villagers have now demanded that the administration demarcate this land that belongs to the village and hold bidding as per rules for contract farming on this land. Lok Bhalai Insaf Welfare Society president Baldev Singh Sirsa said, “Around 25 villagers have furnished affidavits to the administration that they are ready to participate in the annual biding for contract farming on this land. They have also mentioned in the affidavit that they will start their bidding from Rs 35,000 per acre.”
Sirsa alleged that under pressure, the district administration and the village panchyat silently had allowed the dera rights of farming on this land for years at very low bids. “The dera has constructed a boundary wall around this land. There is no access to this land for us. Every year, the dera gets this land at a very low bid as there is no other bidder.”
“Despite all odds, a group of villagers went to participate in the bidding held at the local government school on June 8. But they were not allowed to participate by the administration under the pressure of dera,” Sirsa said.
Karamjit Kaur is sarpanch of the village. Her father-in-law and former sarpanch Balwinder Singh, speaking on her behalf, said, “Biding for the land was held in a transparent way. Everybody was invited and there was no restriction. Dera made a bid for around 75 acres of land. They would pay Rs 3 lakh for one year for the whole land. It would cost them less than Rs 5000 per acre.”
Sirsa, however, said that in a related case, villagers had given an affidavit in the Punjab and Haryana High Court that they were ready to pay Rs 35,000 per acre for this land. Balwinder Singh said the dera had been successfully bidding for this land for over 20 years, but agreed that villagers were unhappy about the wall constructed around the land.
He, however, denied any rigging in the bidding process. “The land is not fertile. I will have no problem if someone is ready to pay Rs 35,000 per acre,” said the former sarpanch.
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development) of Amritsar, Ravinder Singh, said, “I have received a complaint in which objections were raised over the process of biding of land held earlier this month. Complainants also claimed that a boundary wall had been constructed by the Dera around the land, which is public property. I have asked District Development and Panchayat Officer to probe into the allegations.”