Illegal miners are plundering agricultural land by taking it on lease, and there is no one to stop them. Even the ancestral land of a 15-year-old orphaned boy, Shubham, in Agampur village of Rupnagar district has not been spared. Though the miners are paying rent for it, the money never reached the boy.
It is Shubham's paternal aunt Sudesh Kumari who gets Rs. 7 lakh for the 3.5 acres of agricultural and barren land rented out to miners without signing any written lease agreement. Interestingly, the payments are made through middlemen, never directly.
Shubham's father owned half of this land, but the aunt has a "promise" to make: "I will transfer the ownership of land in Shubham's name after he turns 18."
Sudesh Kumari said they were earlier getting Rs. 1.7 lakh per acre from the miners, but the lease money was recently increased to Rs. 2 lakh per acre.
Shubham lives with his maternal aunt in Garhshankar. Suffering from a neurological problem, he can barely talk or walk properly. "Since he is not staying with us, we can't be of much help to him," said Sudesh Kumari.
A Class 5 dropout, Shubham simply nodded when asked whether he was aware of his ancestral land in Agampur.
As per revenue records, Shubham is the heir of 11 acres, of which about 2 acres is under the control of illegal miners and stone crusher operators.
Stone crushers and illegal miners are operating from at least 250 acres of agricultural and barren land on the banks of a Sutlej tributary in this area. The land holdings under these crushers and the other areas under illegal mining here bear revenue 'mustil' numbers 103, 104, 105, 109, 110, 125, 127, 128, 112 and 113. Each 'mustil' contains 25 acres.
If the landholders are taken to task as per the law for leasing out their fields for illegal mining, Shubham's name will also be among them. Shubham's father had died in 2002. Five months after his mother's death in 2008, he was taken to Garhshankar by his maternal uncle, who also died recently.