Taking a strong note of the irregularities in the official proceedings of the Public Premises and Land (Eviction and Rent Recovery) Act, 1971, the Punjab and Haryana high court has restrained the Ludhiana district administration from evicting a group of farmers from their land without deciding on the reply to the show-cause notices served to them.
Alleging highhandedness of the district administration in a few cases where farmers were issued show-cause notices to clarify their stand on the specific dates, but without having waited for the reply, the department served eviction orders on August 30 this year, Sukhwinder Singh and six others filed a civil writ petition in the high court.
The farmers had referred to a case of Gurdev Singh of Hambran village, who possesses four acres since 1967 and had applied for transfer of ownership under the Punjab Package Deal Property Disposal Act, 1976, in an application dated December 25, 2007 in the office of tehsildar sales, Ludhiana west. His application was not considered all these years. Instead, the district administration issued him a show-cause notice under the Public Premises and Land (Eviction and Rent Recovery) Act, 1971, dated August 12, 2013, asking him to clarify his stand on August 26.
"I asked for time and was given the time till September 3, but without having waited for the reply, the department served eviction orders on August 30," rued Gurdev Singh.
Interestingly, Gurdev Singh, who owns 4 acres whereas he was served eviction order on August 30 for 11 acres. Of this, seven acres belong to Piara Singh, Harminder Singh, Dharminder Singh and Pal Singh.
Piara Singh and Harminder Singh said, "How could the district administration serve us notices under wrong khasra numbers? Moreover, the tehsildar west, in his official communication, has stated that he has already taken possession of our respective lands whereas we are still in possession as we are yet to harvest our crop."
Advocate Iqbal Singh Gill, convener, SAD legal cell, who is fighting the cause of the farmers for long, said these farmers were waiting to become land owners as per provisions of the Punjab Package Deal Property Disposal Act, 1976, revised in 2007, but the eviction notices had dashed their hopes. "Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has made every move to help marginal farmers but it was the inordinate delay in the processing of applications that has resulted in the catch-22 situation."
On the instructions given by Badal after the revision of the policy dated September 26, 2007 in the Package Deal Property Disposal Act, the Punjab land revenue and rehabilitation department sent a reminder to all deputy commissioners, but to no avail. The policy was further revised in 2010 wherein marginal farmers tilling less than 10 acres from 2004 were also accommodated.
According to section 3 rule (6) of the Punjab Package Deal Properties (Disposal Rules), 1976, on receipt of the applications for the transfer of land, the tehsildar sales shall scrutinize and dispose it of within four months from the date of receipt of the application for transfer of land under these rules. However, the officials in land revenue department have kept majority of such applications pending for years.
To be rendered homeless
About 3,000 marginal farmers in Ludhiana's sub-divisions, besides thousands of them tilling government land on riverbanks in districts such as Rupnagar, Nawanshahr, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Kapurthala and Tarn Taran are set to be rendered landless and homeless. These farmers were waiting to be the owners of their respective lands under the Punjab Package Deal Property Disposal Act, 1976.