FOR THE second time in Sangrur, auction of panchayat land meant for agriculture for Dalits could not take place in Thandiwal village Tuesday morning.
Around 500 of the village’s 2,000-strong population are Dalits. They said the land has to be given on a 33-year lease to Dalit families at Rs 500 per acre — as decided by the village’s gram sabha, a fortnight ago. However, the district development panchayat officer (DDPO) refused to accept this decision and hence, 19 bighas meant for Dalits in this village was to be auctioned. However, it did not happen as no one bid.
Gurmukh Singh and Mukesh Malaud of the Zamin Prapati Sangrash Committee, said, “When the gram sabha has decided to give the panchayat land meant for Dalits for agriculture purposes on a 33-year lease, why did the DDPO organise an auction? He even took 2-3 active members of the village including one Gurdeep Singh to a separate room and locked them in for some time. He had to release them later when we protested. Auction could not happen because the Dalits protested.”
As per the Panchayat Raj Act, a third of agricultural land of a village panchayat has to be given to Dalits. Auction is to happen every year before paddy season. However, every year, such incidents are becoming common in many villages where Dalits complain that landlords field dummy candidates or the reserve price is very high, due to which auctions are cancelled repeatedly.
This year, Dalits passed a resolution via gram sabha in Tolewal village and now in Thandiwal — both in Sangrur — about land mean for Dalits to be given on 33 years lease at Rs 500 per acre.
Gurmukh said, “Twenty per cent of the village population needs to be present at a gram sabha meeting for passing any resolution. Hence we fulfiled the norm and got the above resolution passed and even sent it to DDPO, but he is refusing to accept it. So we are ready to fight it out.”
Sources said that those present in this gram sabha meeting were mostly from Dalit families.
Narbhinder Singh Grewal, DDPO, Sangrur, said, “There is no such rule of giving panchayat land meant for agriculture on a 33-year lease in Panchayati Raj Act. We tried organising an auction, but it could not be done as no bidder came. We did not lock up anyone, rather they raised slogans against the government and we called off the auction. We will organise an auction yet again after a week, but if there is no bidder again, we will do plantation on that land under Mission Tandrust Punjab.”