Chandigarh, December 18
A delegation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Punjab, led by Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, met the governor of Punjab, VP Singh Badnore and sough revocation of the Punjab Cabinet’s decision to amend the ‘Punjab Village Common Lands’ (Regulation) Rules 1964, clearing the legal hitch to transfer the ‘shamlat’ land owned by the village panchayats to the department of industries and export corporation (PSIEC), which, it said, would have disastrous consequences in the long run.
A memorandum submitted to the governor, said that the decision, which seemed to have been taken in a tearing hurry, on the pretext of rural industrial development, wass nothing but a mere ploy to appease the ‘patronized’ industrial honchos enjoying political patronage as panchayats in the state would be deprived of a sizeable chunk of revenue generated on account of leasing out a whopping 1 lakh 35 thousand acres of land in an annual bid.
In the memorandum submitted to the governor, said that under the provision, the panchayats would have to first adopt a resolution to sell their respective village land to the PSIEC and the same would be sold out further once the resolution gets government’s nod. However, the PSIEC would not pay adequate share of the proceeds to the panchayats, which raised a serious question of propriety on the part of the government.
It said that it was double whammy for the panchayats, for the PSIEC would pay only 25% of the total price of the land to the panchayats in lieu of getting 100% ownership of the land in its own name, the remaining as the rest of the amount is to be paid later in four equal installments.
The memorandum further added that, according to the statutory conditions laid down by the government, installments would start 2 years after the purchase of the land, saying there was no mention of as to how when would end, it said citing provisions.
The delegation said that the respective Gram Panchayats had been advised that they could deposit the money received from the government agency in banks and buy land anywhere in the state against interest. Honorable sir, what kind of rural development and industry policy was this, the delegation asked.
The delegation further apprised the governor that it is the biggest ever fraud with the people and the villages, the landless farmers and the dalit community would be left to face the heat of this decision, as, according to the Village Common Land Act 1961, one-third of the land is reserved for them. What would happen to the beleaguered farming and Dalits community, who used to hire the shamlat land on cheap contract rate to secure food for their families and fodder for their livestock. Even the dalits of homeless poor in the state, who were expecting five-marla plots from the panchayat lands (in many villages, plots have been allotted to the beneficiaries), leaving little hope for living their dream of owning a house of their own.
It pointed out that the PSIEC had already been locked in a Rs 1,500 crore plot scam, many of its officers and employees, who were named in the Vigilance Bureau investigations, were still roaming free and holding key posts under the patronage of the Chief Minister’s Office.
The delegations said that the land contract in Punjab was above Rs 50,000 on an average, while the ‘shamlat’ land contract ws a Rs 26,000, which is being contributed by hundreds of small-time farmers and landless Dalit families, which was panchayats’ income. Last year, it was tentatively some Rs 350 crore. Twenty percent of this amount is spent to disburse salaries of the panchayat department employees and the rest on rural development schemes, like the MGNREGA, etc. If there is no land left at the disposal of the panchayats, the development schemes would be hit, and staff of the panchayat department would cry for their salaries. The need of the hour for the Captain government was that it had crushed the mafia raj, the brain-child of the Badal government, and win over financial crisis by taming the transport mafia, the land mafia, the wood mafia, the education mafia, and other mafias active in the state, which any honest government could have done it easily.
The Kejriwal-led government in Delhi, the memorandum said, was the fitting example to substantiate the point. Much against the hopes and aspirations of the people of Punjab, the Capt Amarinder Singh’s government had left the Badals far behind in extending protection to mafia, which further deepened the economic crisis in the state. The successive governments in the state had been were taking turns to ‘loot’ the state exchequer for their own families, a system going on for several decades.