To check frequent sale and purchase of commercial land in Himachal, the government should impose a moratorium for 10 years, says a commission appointed by the state government.
"Every third day we read in the newspapers that the land mafia is active....During the perusal of cases from 2003 to 2011, the commission has observed that there are certain persons who have purchased land in bulk and sold to industrialists within a period of six months to three years," said justice DP Sood, a former judge of Himachal Pradesh high court who headed the commission.
The state government had constituted the one-man commission to probe 'benami' (illegal) land transactions in the state from 2003 to 2011 and look into violations of statutory provisions and administrative procedures.
In his report submitted to the government this month, Justice Sood shortlisted 22 people who were involved in frequent land purchases and its sale.
"They purchased land in bulk, either in their own name or obtained GPAs (general power of attorneys) in Baddi, Barotiwala, Nalagarh, Kala Amb etc., in advance and sold it to the different industrialists," says the report.
Baddi, Barotiwala and Nalagarh in Solan district and Kala Amb in Sirmaur district are the prominent industrial belts in the state.
The commission observes that such people purchase the land with the sole objective of speculation. "They purchase the land in bulk at cheaper rates and then sell it at higher rates to the industrialists. In this process, the poor farmers and the rich industrialists are the losers."
"Industrialists get the land at higher prices and the farmers' land is purchased at cheaper rates. This huge profit goes into the pockets of these middlemen."
To curb this practice, justice Sood recommends that whereever any new township or industrial town is to be developed, the land purchaser and the (new) owner should not be allowed to sell the land further for at least 10 years.
"The transfer of land on the basis of GPAs may be banned," says the report.
Representatives of real estate say if the recommendation of the commission is accepted, there would be a drastic check on speculation and inflated property rates.
Under Himachal Pradesh laws, only permanent residents can buy land in the state. Others who want to purchase the land for non-agricultural purposes have to seek permission from the government under provisions of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act.