Cracking the whip on encroachers of common village land, the directorate of rural development and panchayats is now initiating criminal proceedings against them.
As per the official data, the directorate has got about 10 criminal cases registered in Punjab in the past two months against those who have failed to vacate the panchayat land even after the expiry of their lease or losing their claim in court.
The cases have been registered under section 13(a) of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, which provides for 2-year imprisonment.
"We had to resort to getting criminal cases registered to send across a strong message to those in illegal possession of shamlat land that none would be spared," said director (rural development and panchayats) Balwinder Singh Multani.
He said the department had initiated a drive to retrieve panchayat land from illegal possession. "We have got many areas cleared of encroachments. In Patiala, 719 acres of land has been freed of encroachments and the possession has been restored to panchayats. There are about 1,283 warrants of possession ('kabza' warrants), involving 4,000 acres of land, which are pending. In SAS Nagar alone, there are 412 'kabza' warrants awaiting execution for the past two years. We will soon get these cases cleared," said Multani.
He said the land freed of encroachments had been given on rent, thus adding to the revenue of panchayats. "The revenue earned this year from 1.45 lakh acres of land through annual lease is Rs 219 crore as compared to Rs 208 crore last year. The revenue generation is likely to further go up through the auction of another 1,200 acres," said Multani.
He said he had already written to the deputy commissioners and SSPs across the state to assist revenue officials in getting 'kabza' warrants executed.