The Punjab government is contemplating to be liberal on the landholding limit. It wants each member of every family to hold 25 acres or more of agricultural land, as opposed to the present limit of 17.5 acres for one family unit.
The proposal came from Bharti Kisan Union (Lakhowal) president Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, who took it up with Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on August 27 to amend the Punjab Land Reforms Act, 1972, to be more liberal with land ceiling, as cultivating small chunks with the modern technology was not practical.
Lakhowal was also of the view that many people, especially in the Malwa region, had registered their agricultural land in relatives' or friends' name because of the land-ceiling law and, hence, ended up in legal battles invariably after the latter refused to return the property. He said the non-resident Indians (NRIs) especially had to suffer because of the present law and so it should be amended.
"When there is no ceiling on the land for raising factories or other businesses, why it has to be on agricultural land? We demand there should be no ceiling," said Lakhowal. Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal confirmed that the government was contemplating to be liberal with landholdings, for which an exercise was on. "We have not yet decided to what limit the land ceiling will be relaxed but will do so after taking all viewpoints into consideration," he added.
Punjab though has one of the most liberal land-ceiling laws. Under the Punjab Land Reforms Act, 1972, which has been amended several times, a family unit (husband, wife, and children) cannot own more than 17.5 acres of fertile agricultural land having access to good irrigation facilities. However, the law also provides for an owner to hold up to 32 acres, if it is barren and without irrigation facilities.
Will have to be referred to Centre
The Punjab Land Reforms is a state Act but since it is given in the 9th schedule of the Constitution, it has to be sent to the union government for amendment. "We want not only both husband and wife to own agricultural land separately but also their adult children to be covered by the same rule.
Each adult member of a family should be considered a separate unit for owning agricultural land. We have sent a proposal to the union government to consider adult daughter to be separate entity to hold land in her name," said a senior official in the Punjab revenue department.
Legal opinion sought
The government has sought legal opinion in this regard from the Punjab advocate general, who will also suggest how much acres of fertile land a member of family should hold under the proposed amendment. "This will bring a lot of 'benami' agricultural land in the name of real owners. The problem is severe particularly in the Malwa region, where the landholdings are very high compared with the Majha and Doaba regions of Punjab," said the official.