Chandigarh: Officials okayed felling of trees worth Rs 10 crore in SAS Nagar village | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh: Officials okayed felling of trees worth Rs 10 crore in SAS Nagar village

Instead of initiating a probe into illegal mutation of erstwhile panchayati land at Mirzapur village in SAS Nagar district, as mentioned in the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal report, certain senior officials allegedly allowed the felling of khair trees over 3,000 acres by private persons, which fetched more than Rs 10 crore to the shareholders.

chandigarh Updated: Apr 15, 2015 11:41 IST
Prabhjit Singh
A-man-standing-beside-a-felled-tree-in-the-Shivalik-hills-at-Mirzapur-village-in-SAS-Nagar-district-on-Touesday-Ravi-Kumar-HT-Photo
A-man-standing-beside-a-felled-tree-in-the-Shivalik-hills-at-Mirzapur-village-in-SAS-Nagar-district-on-Touesday-Ravi-Kumar-HT-Photo

Instead of initiating a probe into illegal mutation of erstwhile panchayati land at Mirzapur village in SAS Nagar district, as mentioned in the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal report, certain senior officials allegedly allowed the felling of khair trees over 3,000 acres by private persons, which fetched more than Rs 10 crore to the shareholders.

In a communication to district forest officer (DFO) Tejinder Singh, SAS Nagar district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) Gurinder Singh Sarao wrote that the rural development and panchayat department had no objection to the felling of these trees and thus, a permit should be issued to the persons concerned.

The DDPO’s no-objection letter dated January 7 contradicted the Majri block development and panchayat officer’s (BDPO’s) official letter written earlier to the DFO, stating that the land in question was highlighted in the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal report and the matter of land ownership was sub judice in the high court, while the issue of the land title was pending in the court of the collector, panchayat land.

“This case is pending in the Punjab and Haryana high court. Therefore, giving the permit to cut the trees will be against the tribunal report,” the BDPO had said in a letter dated January 1.

The Punjab government had given an undertaking in the high court that it accepted the tribunal’s interim report in toto and all its recommendations would be implemented.

Sources said the DDPO overruled the BDPO’s note of caution and procured afresh the revenue report from the naib tehsildar to establish that it was not panchayati land. The entire exercise was done in a single day (January 6), according to communication whose copies are with Hindustan Times. The DDPO skipped any mention of khasra numbers while seeking the revenue record of the hillock from the naib tehsildar.

The DDPO, however, acknowledged his department’s earlier communiqué to the forest department against going ahead with the felling.

DFO Tejinder Singh, who finally gave the permit for the felling, had earlier himself shot off a letter to the DDPO, saying that that this land with the title ‘gairmumkin pahad’ was listed in the tribunal report, raising questions over the


Naib tehsildar’s role
When contacted, naib tehsildar Tarsem Singh Sharma agreed that he wrote to the DDPO that the village panchayat was not a stakeholder in the land, adding that he made these assertions on the basis of the feedback given to him by the patwari
concerned.

Sharma, however, brushed aside the query that the same revenue officials, including himself, had earlier assisted a separate inquiry committee headed by the rural development and panchayat director that probed the land mutations. The committee report had endorsed the tribunal’s findings.

The tribunal report
On the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court, the Punjab government had formed the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal in May 2012 to probe shady transactions of village common/panchayat land across the state.

As per the tribunal’s findings, the land was shown as divided into khasra numbers among several shareholders of the ‘gairmumkin pahad’ (uncultivable hillock) in question. The mutations in their names were done in the 1980s in gross violation of the Punjab Village Common Panchayat Land Act and the Punjab Land Protection Act (PLPA).

The illegalities found in the mutations, as per the tribunal’s interim report, included no jurisdiction of the civil court to entertain and decide the title of the land, and determining of ‘fictitious shares’ by the revenue department without any authority.

Local shareholders at the Mirzapur site told HT that the ongoing cutting of trees was legal and they had not faced any legal hiccups on the ownership issue or division of their land holdings on the ‘gairmumkin pahar’.