Panchayat lands worth crores under illegal possession of influential people in Punjab

Around 18,000 acres of panchayat land, worth crores of rupees remain under illegal occupation in Punjab.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

CHANDIGARH: Around 18,000 acres of panchayat land, worth crores of rupees remain under illegal occupation in Punjab. Out of that, 287 acres were retrieved from the influential encroachers, who include,
politicians, bureaucrats and police officials, by the Punjab government.

The data available with the Rural Development and Panchayats Department reveals some 18,000 acres of panchayat land (village common land), largely in Jalandhar, Mohali and Patiala districts, are encroached by influential people, and therefore, in a legal dispute.

Talking with this newspaper, Director, Rural Development and Panchayats, Gurpreet Singh Khaira said the data of illegally occupied panchayat land is being regularly updated. At present approximately 18,000 acres of land are under illegal possession.

"The issue is being dealt with an iron hand. We will take back the possession of the encroached lands as soon as possible. However, amid action from the department, many people who have taken illegal possession of the lands have taken stay orders from the courts. As of now warrants of possession of 5,000 acres have been procured and 287 acres of land across the state under illegal possession has been taken back,’’ said Khaira.

Khaira said he had instructed all the DDPOs and BDPOs to free the panchayat land from encroachers.

Sources allege that influential persons, including politicians, bureaucrats and police officials, were the main beneficiaries of the illegal sale of such lands. A report by former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kuldip Singh had named several politicians, police officers and bureaucrats who had grabbed panchayat land.

The Rural Development and Panchayats Department has launched a special drive a few days back and freed 29 acres of panchayat land worth crores at Abhipur village under Block Majri in Mohali district, near Chandigarh.

Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said that following the directions of chief minister Bhagwant Mann, he had set a target for the officials to ensure that 5,000 acres of panchayat land are freed from encroachers by May 31 under a special drive across the state in the first phase. He added that the state government is committed to removing encroachments from all panchayat lands across the state and these encroachments will be removed without any discrimination and the lands of the panchayats will be handed over to the panchayats. Dhaliwal said that the report of Justice Kuldip Singh will be examined and appropriate action will be taken.

He also ordered a probe into encroachments on panchayat lands and videography to ensure a transparent annual auction of agriculture panchayat land from this year.

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The New Indian Express