With the issue of mushrooming illegal colonies almost going out of control and different departments making futile attemps to manage irreparable loss to the state’s exchequer, experts said that the Circle Rate, which is fixed by the district administrative authorities for residential, commercial, agricultural properties etc., has been adding to the problem.
Experts said that the state revenue department, which fixes the circle rate, can play a big role in curbing the menace of illegal colonies. The department can fix the circle rates of residential and commercial properties only in ‘Abadi Deh’ or ‘Lal lakeer’ area of the villages. But in Punjab, residential and commercial rates are also fixed outside this area.
Explaining how residential and commercial rates outside Abadi Deh are responsible for the growth of illegal colonies, a senior official said that the remaining land is mostly agricultural land, which is also covered under the circle rate. “But at the same time, residential and commercial rates of the entire village land are also given. The colonisers take the advantage of it and they first purchase agricultural land and start getting registered plots (residential and commercial) according to that rate list by mentioning the plot number, khewat/Khatouni number, khasra number of that particular land and place. Gradually when a sizable number of people purchase plots on that land, a name of a colony is given and a new illegal colony comes into existence,” the official said, adding that this practice has been going on for years.
In villages that are located close to Municipal Limits and where colonies were carved out, plots are registered in name of village but the name of the colony is different. “For instance, in Jalandhar Cantt area, colonies such as Golden avenue, Defence colony etc. have been developed on the agricultural land of villages Birring, Pragpur etc.,” said a former tehsildar of Jalandhar, adding that in the registries the names of the villages were mentioned.
A senior official of the revenue department said that if one goes by the circle rate of Panchkula district in Haryana, the rates of Abadi-deh of villages are mentioned, not the residential and commercial rates of the entire village.
Advocate Mukesh Verma of Punjab and Haryana High Court said that “instead of giving residential and commercial rates in the entire village, rates only of ‘Abadi Deh’ area should be mentioned as then there would be no residential and commercial rates outside ‘Abadi Deh’. In such a scenario, no residential and commercial plot can be registered on the land and scope of coming up of illegal colonies would be limited.
He added that it is also a violation of Indian Registration Act (amended in October 2020) and ‘speaking order’ of Financial Commissioner Revenue, Punjab, November 2021. A senior officer in the revenue department said that circle rates are different in different districts across Punjab. While a notification was issued by Punjab Revenue department in 2003 regarding the set procedure for fixing the circle rate, these rates are mostly fixed by respective Deputy Commissioners of the district without consulting other departments.
Experts added that the circle rate list does not distinguish between Town Planning Schemes, colonies developed before 1995, colonies within the lal lakeer of the cities, PUDA approved colonies, colonies developed by PUDA, Improvement Trusts (ITs) and various other government agencies, colonies within and outside municipal limits, regularised illegal colonies, illegal colonies, industrial colonies and industrial focal points etc.
Advocate Verma added, “The circle rate list only mentions the rate in the colony without mentioning the legality of that colony.”
Another officer added that it is widely known that the master plans of various cities have been notified and land falling outside ‘lal lakeer’ of the village might fall within the local planning area of the said city. “However, in that case, if someone has to use the agricultural land for another purpose, then that person needs to get the land usage changed. For this, a proper procedure should be followed under the provisions of various Acts of Punjab but commercial and residential circle rates of villages outside the lal Dora are also stumbling blocks in the ways of these Acts,” the officer added.
A senior officer in the Punjab Housing and Urban Development Department said that unless and until the circle rate lists are not amended and residential and commercial rates of properties outside lal dora are not deleted from such list, no department in Punjab can curb the growth of such colonies. “Even though when NOCs have been made mandatory to regularise plots in illegal colonies, if circle rates are not revised, nothing will work out,” he said, adding that NOCs are also being issued in the name of villages rather than colonies which show the unprofessional attitude of the authorities and ignorance of the existing laws.