The oft-heard grabbing of the village common land and the forest area in the Shivalik foothills was exposed near the upcoming New Chandigarh on Tuesday when cops and a revenue official from another jurisdiction came in to demarcate it for grabbers to take possession.
The stage was set for the revenue officials —kanungo Raghbir Singh from the Kharar tehsil office and local patwari Baljit Singh — to demarcate a forest chunk of Chhoti Badi Naggal village and update its possession record, even though the land is enlisted in the Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal report for restoration to villagers on account of being “gair mumkin pahad” (hill that could not be divided, owned individually, or sold out). It fizzled out because two parties were claiming the land.
The cases pertaining to the title of the same land is also pending with the state government for more than three years. The additional deputy commissioner (development) of SAS Nagar district couldn’t decide on these for two years and six months; and the rural development and panchayat deputy director-cum-collector is on these for six months, after rural development and panchayat minister Sikander Singh Maluka moved these cases to him.
At the site on Tuesday, one Surmukh Singh introduced himself as a landlord from the nearby village of Ranimajra and living in SAS Nagar currently. A handful of men flanked him as he argued with officials of the “Quark City” real-estate company, who also claimed ownership of the land on the basis of the sale deeds in hand. When confronted, Surmukh said two years and six months ago, he had bought 1.25 acres for Rs 25 lakh per acre but didn’t have sale deed at hand. He even refused to identify the men with him and name the original owners from whom he claimed to have bought the land.
As the parties argued, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) arrived with two other policemen and asked the revenue officials to proceed with their scheduled task of demarcation. The kanungo, however, explained to the ASI that the matter was complicated and sub judice. The ASI from the Mullanpur police station said he was there “to keep vigil during demarcation”.
Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal report of 2012 recommended more than 2,000-acre forestland of Chhoti Badi Naggal in SAS Nagar district to be restored to village in land title, since it could not be cultivated or made individual possession. It can neither be divided among individual owners nor sold out under the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act.
Yet, between 1993 and 2000, different land owners of Chhoti Badi Naggal sold out a major part of it to Fauja Singh Quark City after a Kharar court decreed the entire non-cultivable area and divided it among individual owners. But in October 2010, the-then SAS Nagar deputy commissioner-cum-collector declared the Kharar civil court order illegitimate, arguing that no civil court had powers to decide matters related to the village common lands. The officer also carried out proceedings against Quark City under the Punjab Land Revenue Act of 1972.
The Quark City officials said the company had challenged the DC’s orders in the court of the Patiala divisional commissioner-cum-collector and secured a stay.