Panchayat and government officials allegedly involved in land grabbing
More than 24,000 acres of shamlat (village common land) land in Punjab has reportedly been found to be illegally occupied.
A herculean exercise undertaken by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat to free its shamlat land from grabbers has revealed not just the extent of the problem but also the fact that in many cases,either panchayat or government officials are involved in land grabbing. As a result,the department has decided to wield the stick,including registration of criminal cases,against anyone found to be involved in the usurping of shamlat land in the state.
In a strongly worded communication sent to all district development and panchayat officers (DDPOs),director (rural development and panchayats) has recently directed that shamlat land under illegal possession be identified and cases registered against all those involved in the process.
This 24,000 acres of land includes several instances where the government has been granted warrants of possession from various courts but it has not been able to take physical possession of the land. Not being able to take possession of land is now being seen either as inefficiency or connivance on part of the department.
The communication sent to the DDPOs and block development and panchayat officers (BDPOs) added that they can invoke Section 17 of the Punjab Village Common Land Act and get the land grabbers arrested. In case the DDPOs and BDPOs do not act against such land grabbers,it will be considered connivance on part of the officers and disciplinary action will be initiated against them, said B S Multani,Director (rural development and panchayats).
He added that usurping of shamlat land,especially in the peripheral villages of big cities,was on the rise and the rural development minister had directed the department to stem it with a heavy hand.
In Patiala,for instance,we have been able to retrieve over 700 acres of shamlat land in the past few months from grabbers. Out of this,400 acres have been retrieved from Sanour block alone. Similarly,in Mohali,we have managed to get back 150 acres, added Multani.
At many places,panchayat officers have been directed to take the help of the local police to get rid of these illegal possessions. In June,the revenue department too had decided not to allow the sale and transfer of village common lands including Shamlat Deh or Jumla Mushtarka Malkan.
Financial Commissioner (Revenue) N S Kang,in a letter to all deputy commissioners,had stated that land reserved for common purpose will neither be sold or transferred. He had added that if any registration of such land has already taken place,then its mutation should be put on hold till further orders.
The ban has been enforced by the government on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.