The Dalits of Ubhawal village got nine acre common reserved land for cooperative farming at Rs 27,000 per acre during the auction on Tuesday, but the administration cancelled auctions in Bahadurpur, Fathegarh and Ghabdan villages.
In 2015-16, the district administration had given land for rent at Rs 26.66 crore and in 2016-17, panchayat land was offered for rent and the department got Rs 26.89 crore from Sunam, Dirba, Andana, Sherpur, Bhawanigarh, Sangrur, Malerkotla 1 and 2, Dhuri and Lehragaga block. The average cost of general land was Rs 29,001 per acre, last year.
As per law, from this land, 33% has been reserved for the Dalit community. The Dalits are demanding this land at minimum cost, and are alleging that the upper castes used to take their share as well, using dummy candidates. But the Dalit families are taking the land from the past few years now, and have established a model of collective farming.
“Earlier, we used to go to the farms of upper caste farmers for grass and had to face caste abuses from the Jatt farmers. They used to treat us like animals. If we will have share in the Panchayti land, we will be able to live a dignified life,” said Jasbir Kaur, a member of Krantikari Mazdoor Union.
“We too have right on this land. Earlier, the Jatt farmers would use our people as dummy bidders. Now, we will be able to cultivate crop on this land,” added Bhagwan Kaur, a Dalit woman.
Balad Kalan and Jalhoor villages had witnessed bloody struggles for the common reserved land in the past few years. The administration has now decided to conduct an auction at these villages in the last leg. “We are struggling for our rights in 50 villages and have gotten land at minimum price in only 13 villages. Government is playing game with us and is not ready to provide land at lesser prices,” said Mukesh Malaudh, president of Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee.
“The Dalits have successfully attained nine acre in Ubhawal village; but in five other villages, a dummy auction was conducted. We are struggling in 13 villages and will probably succeed in getting land at lesser amounts in all places,” said Sanjeev Mintu, president of Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union.
Meanwhile, district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) Sukhpal Singh said that auctions are being conducted according to law and by fair means.