While two village panchayats have okayed land registry for the proposed industrial park near Ludhiana’s Mattewara forest, the Sekhowal village panchayat – which has maximum 467 acres land earmarked for the project – has refused to transfer panchayati land to the state government. Further, panchayat members, including the Sekhowal sarpanch, have alleged that they were called to Koomkalan Tehsil office on Thursday evening and asked to okay transfer of panchayat land in Punjab government’s name, which they refused to do.
Sekhowal Sarpanch Amrik Kaur said, “We were called in Tehsil office, Koomkalan division, late Thursday evening. Police came to take me and other panchayat members. Already, we have passed resolution against transferring out village land to Punjab government for industrial activity. But then Tehsildar , Block Development Officer and other officials were calling us to get land registry done, but our panchayat did not agree.”
Amrik Kaur’s husband and former sarpanch, Dheera Singh, said, “Earlier, unknowingly the panchayat had passed a resolution that they are ready to transfer 467 acres to the government as we were told that it will be for the betterment of village. But, now we have come to know that industrial activity is going to happen in this area and it can pollute Sutlej water. So, we have decided not to let this land be used for industrial activity. They called us in the evening and tried to force us to sign on land registry papers. However, our villagers – over 500 in number — gathered outside Koomkalan Tehsil office Thursday evening.”
Villagers, who had gathered in large numbers outside the Tehsil office, raised slogans against the government.
Dheera said, “We were told that on Friday officials will visit the village, but no one came.”
On Saturday, Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema visited village Sekhowal and supported the panchayat’s move.
The Public Action Committee (PAC) formed to oppose the proposed industrial park slammed government’s alleged move to force Sekhowal panchayat to part with its land. PAC member Kuldeep Khaira said, “The act was foiled when villagers gathered in large numbers outside the office and protested.
The 1,000 acres of land earmarked for the industrial park comes in villages Sekhowala, Salempur, Haider Nagar, Sailkiana and Machian Kalan. Out of this panchayat land is in villages Sailkiana, Salempur and Sekhowal and the rest is land of the Animal Husbandry Department and the Horticulture Department in these villages.
Asked about the allegations of Sekhowal panchayat members being forced to transfer land to the government, Deputy Commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma said, “These are false allegations that panchayat was forcibly called. It was a planned meeting. If one checks phone details of Sarpanch Amrik Kaur, she got a call at 1 pm to come to the Tehsil office. No one brought her forcibly. As resolutions had been passed by village panchayats regarding transfer of land more than 5 months back, they were being called to get land registry done. Panchayats of Sailkiana and Salempur have got land registry done and it has now been acquired by Punjab government.”
He added: “Sailkiana’s 20 acres land has been acquired for which panchayat has been paid little more than Rs 3 crores, while for 27 acres land of Salempur, around Rs 4.9 crores has been paid to the panchayat. Rs 80 crores was the amount for Sekhowal village panchayat, which has already come. It will be transferred to the panchayat’s account only when they will okay the land transfer. We are not forcing them. However, they had agreed earlier and it is surprising that they were not aware of details earlier.”
The DC said that in the Master Plan of Ludhiana, that area is already earmarked for industrial activity.
“I am surprised that why no hue and cry was made when cycle valley came up at 100 acres land in Dhanansu area which is 3 km away from Sekhowal. A total of Rs 120 crores was paid to village panchayat of Dhanansu at that time and they are using interest of that money for various development works…I want to repeat that this 1,000 acres of land is not in Mattewara forest range, hence it should not be confused with the forest. Land is meant for light industry with proper norms of controlling pollution at every level. It has been named as Koomkalan industrial zone and it is not taking even an inch of Mattewara forest zone,” said the Ludhiana DC.
Satwinder Aujla, nambardar of village Sailkiana, said, “I am surprised why Sekhowal village panchayat backed out at the last moment when they had agreed publicly earlier few months back. They had earlier agreed to setting up a race course as well during the SAD- BJP regime. Our panchayat got land registry done in Punjab government’s name.”
Shinderpal Singh, father-in-law of Neha, sarpanch of village Salempur village, said, “We have asked the authorities that our boys should get jobs in this project. Our village boys go to hosiery factories to work. Moreover, we had agreed to this project earlier.”
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