Despite repeated visits of and assurances by members of the Punjab scheduled castes commission (PSCC) to members of Dalit communities in Sangrur, the controversy over the panchayati land reserved for Dalits remains unsolved.
After the alleged boycott of Dalits by members of the upper castes in Boupur village of the Moonak subdivision, the main demand of members of the Dalit community is that the land reserved for the SCs should be given to them at nominal rates (below `10,000 per acre), which has irritated farmers of upper castes, who are taking the same land on auction at `40,000-`50,000 per acre. Following routine clashes in several villages, the district administration has been caught in a tight spot and is finding it difficult to complete the auction process as the paddy transplantation has already started.
Punjab SC commission member Dalip Singh Pandhi’s visit, on Wednesday, forced the police to record the statement of Dalits for the registration of an FIR against 9 people, including village sarpanch Jora Singh, for allegedly attacking two members of the Dalit community. But the issue of auction of 17 bighas of panchayat land, reserved for scheduled castes, which had resulted in a clash, still remained unsolved.
“We don’t think that the issue of auction of the land will ever be solved as farmers of upper castes lure members of the Dalit community to take the land on higher rates and they sublet the land to them for cultivation,” said Rupinder Singh, member of Zameen Prapti Sangarsh Samiti,” adding, “if our demand was not met we will have to resort to a protest."
Besides, the situation is also tense in Balad Kalan village of the Bhawanigarh sub-division of the district, where members of the Dalit community had stopped a farmer Darshan Singh from tilling the land, alleging that a Dalit farmer had sub-let 59 bighas of the land to Darshan Singh after auction on May 14. Now, the matter is pending with the Bhawanigarh police.
After cancellation of several auctions, now 27 June has been fixed for the auction of remaining 472 bighas reserved for the SCs. When the issue of sub-letting of the land, reserved for the Dalits, was taken up with DDPO Baljeet Singh, he said, “Yes, this time we are facing problems in the auction of the reserved panchayati land, but how can we stop the members of reserved communities from participating in the auction as the auction money will be spent on the development of their village” “To check sub-letting by Dalits to rich farmers, we have added a clause in the auction rule that if anybody, other than the farmer who had ben allotted the land, was found cultivating that land, the auction will be cancelled,” he added.
He also said that it is the duty of the administration to conduct auction of the land and action will be taken against those who take the law in hand.