Encroachment on nearly 12 kanals of government land by some residents of Surghur village in Jaitu subdivision of the district for residential purpose is only a pointer to the larger menace that shows how the common village land and ponds are encroached upon by those who enjoy political patronage.
While about 7 kanals of land belonging to the panchayat has been encroached upon near the government school in the village, 5 kanal has been occupied near the village pond.
"The encroachments have allegedly come up on several kanals of land in the village at the behest of a group and a senior Akali leader, who are supporting the violators for political reasons. Those who encroached upon the land last month are now asking the village panchayat and the department to remove all the encroachments which have come up on the government land over decades before removing their violations," said a village resident.
"We have complained to the authorities concerned that 7-kanal land near the village school and 5 kanals of the pond has been encroached upon by about 10 to 12 local residents. I am only concerned about the encroachments which have taken place during my tenure. I have no knowledge of violations which came up years earlier," said Iqbal Singh, the village sarpanch.
"Some encroachments were there earlier too. They cropped up over the years and nobody tried to remove them. Some parts of the village pond had been encroached upon earlier by those living nearby while about 5 kanal was encroached upon last month only. Some people have now started encroaching upon the sides of the large pond which is spread over 5 acres," a resident said.
"The police also arrived a day after the panchayat filed a complaint at the Jaitu police station to remove the encroachments. Some people exerted political pressure besides threatening to burn themselves and their tents, forcing the cops to back off," he informed.
The encroachers had first put up tents but they have now started constructing kutcha rooms also. Even as September 2 was fixed as the deadline to remove these violations nothing could be done due to the political pressure the violators managed to exert over the administration and the police.
"I am aware of the encroachments in the village and we are going to remove them soon," said Harmail Singh Bangi, block development and panchayat officer (BDPO), Kotkapura. "We have also sought police help and we will try to convince people to vacate the site and look into their demands too. We are trying to solve the problem as per the law," said Chhattarpal Singh, district development and panchayat officer, Faridkot.