The auction of panchayati land reserved for Scheduled Castes took an ugly turn at Balad Kalan village in Sangrur district on Friday when the police resorted to a lathicharge on members of the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Samiti (ZPSS). The samiti members were demanding cancellation of the auction, saying that the prices were beyond the reach of landless Dalit farmers.
According to the ZPSS, 12 people, including two women, were injured in the lathicharge. Paramjeet Kaur and Gurmail Kaur were referred to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, while the others were admitted to the government hospital at Bhawanigarh. The police have arrested 28 people.
The police claimed that three cops were also injured in the clash. After the cancellation of five auctions, this was the sixth fixed by the district administration in the office of the block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) here.
Talking to HT, Sangrur district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) Baljeet Singh said, “In the past two months, this is the sixth auction they wanted cancelled, but we have to consider interests of farmers who are willing to take the land. The general land had already been auctioned on May 14.”
He said the village panchayat had already auctioned 59 bighas (around 12 acres) of reserved land. Now, ZPSS members tried to stop farmers from participating in the auction of 472 bighas (nearly 95 acres) of reserved land, he claimed. The reserved price this time was ? 24,600 per acre. The DDPO added, “After our repeated requests fell on deaf ears, we had to call the police to complete the auction process peacefully.”
On the issue of increased land prices, he said, “The farmers (who take the land on lease) are ready to pay, how we can stop them? This year, the panchayat will earn Rs 2 lakh more than last year’s Rs 27 lakh from the reserved land.”
“The money generated from the auction will be spent on the development of the village,” he added.
Rupinder Singh of the ZPSS alleged that some officials of the district administration were hand in glove with rich farmers, who take the land by luring some poor people of the SC community. Three SC panchayat members, namely Paramjeet Kaur, Jarnail Singh and Surinder Singh, have resigned in protest against the auction, he added.
Bhawanigarh police station incharge Sukhminder Singh said the police had installed barricades outside the BDPO’s office, adding that the protesting ZPSS members were hell-bent on their demand for cancellation of the auction, following which the police had to use lathicharge.