The Punjab SC Commission has sought a report from Sangrur police and district authorities over complaints of water supply to Dalit residents of Tolewala village being stopped for four months allegedly by local landlords. Sangrur DC and SSP have been given 24 hours to file a reply.
Tolewala has about 40 houses belonging to the Dalit community. They have alleged that tubewell room of water works department was locked due to which water supply to their houses was cut off.
Beant Singh, village sarpanch and a Dalit, said: “Landlords in the village have submersible pumps in their houses but Dalits depend upon water works supply only. However, for the past four months, tubewell room was locked due to which water works supply was not being provided to the entire village. As we are completely dependent on water works supply, our community suffered the most….It was done at the behest of landlords of the village with whom our community is having difference of opinion over auction of panchayati land reserved for Dalits.” The tubewell room was unlocked on Tuesday night after the SC commission intervened.
Jagsir Singh, another Dalit villager, said,”In our community, there are submersible pumps in two houses from where we could bring water and at times, we used to take panchayat tanker to Langriyan village which is a km away from our village in order to bring water from tubewell motor of that village as landlords never allowed us to take water even from their fields, what to talk of taking from submersible pumps of their houses.”
Sarpanch Beant Singh said that he had complained to police and the the SC Commission on Monday, following which lock of tubewell room was opened. Malerkotla SDM Vikramjeet Singh Panthey said, “A complaint came to us a day before and we acted immediately. It was not a four month old problem. According to my knowledge, the contractor had locked the room as his payment was pending.. there is no issue of landlords of village in this case, still we will inquire into the allegations of the sarpanch.”
Tejinder Kaur, chairperson of Punjab SC Commission, said,”The lock has been opened. Still I have asked for a report from the DC as well as the SSP. It is really a sad incident and discrimination on the basis of caste should not happen, but complaints keep on coming to us.”
Beant Singh added,”There is five acre panchayat agriculture land in village which is reserved for Dalits. Last year, our gram sabha had passed resolution to give this land on 33 years lease on Rs 500 per acre rate only. However, this resolution was rejected by Director of the Panchayat Department.” Meanwhile, 9 attempts had been made to organise auction of panchayati land reserved for Dalits in the recent past, but all attempts had failed.
The Sarpanch said,”The 5 acre land reserved for Dalits was not auctioned last year. It is lying uncultivated. We are ready to go for auction for one year as well, but we want that Dalit families should do community farming. But landlords want their dummy candidate to be fielded.. so this is the tussle that’s going on.”
On July 1 last year, local landlords and Dalits from the village had clashed after which two landlords — Lal Singh Chaudhary and Bagga Singh — were booked under SC/ST Act. Beant Singh and his wife were also booked for criminal assault.
BDPO Amandeep Kaur said,”The issue of water has been resolved, but yes, there is a problem between sarpanch and other members of panchayat. I had a meeting of all the members a couple of times, but they are not coming on the same page as of now. We are trying to resolve the matter soon. No one is trying to sideline the sarpanch. I can understand that many development works are stalled due to this tussle.”
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