SYL land in Punjab ‘already returned to owners’ even as court battle still on
Even as the battle with Haryana is still on in the Supreme Court, land for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal is being restored, in revenue records, to the original owners at breakneck speed by Punjab’s SAD-BJP government.punjab Updated: Nov 17, 2016 21:38 IST
Even as the battle with Haryana is still on in the Supreme Court, land for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal is being restored, in revenue records, to the original owners at breakneck speed by Punjab’s SAD-BJP government.
On Thursday, the notification by the state irrigation department reached deputy commissioners of four districts where the SYL land is located. Within hours, revenue department officials showed the land as returned to the original owners. Officials have even reported that “90% owners have taken possession”. That is on the basis of the March 16 and 17 action when, assisted by all political parties, the original owners had taken over land after the Punjab assembly passed a bill for the acquired land’s de-notification.
That bill is still pending for assent by the governor and the Supreme Court too had ordered status quo, but the state cabinet earlier this week took an executive decision to return the land anyway. The cabinet’s defiant move had come after the SC on November declared “invalid” Punjab’s 2004 law by which the state had unilaterally annulled all water-sharing agreements, including the SYL canal with Haryana.
“The report for restoration has been recorded in the official books of every patwari. The record-mutation work is on. We will complete it within the next few hours,” said a revenue official overseeing the process at Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala, where patwaris were on the job at least till 8pm. Other two districts covered are Rupnagar and SAS Nagar.
The number of original owners is around 4,900 for the 5,376 acres. “We have clear directions to implement this decision in 24 hours,” said a deputy commissioner who refused to be named, fearing ire of the SC for alleged contempt of its orders. Other DCs and senior officials expressed the same concern.
Punjab Patwar Union leader Mohan Singh said, “We have decided to work overnight so that by Friday we can start giving mutation record copies to the original owners. In case of descendents and legal heirs, the mutation can be changed again later, but for now we will restore the land in the name of the person from whom it was acquired, whether he/she is alive or not.” Lambardars (local revenue officials) has been directed to assist patwaris.
Farmers have been told by local Akali leaders to take physical possession after taking copies of land records. “We levelled the canal next to our fields in March, but could not start farming as officials later denied permission. I have decided to sow wheat on that land now,” said Jagsir Singh of Banaur village.
The state’s notification, issued by irrigation secretary Kahan Singh Pannu, says, “In view of the decision of [the] cabinet of government of Punjab, it is hereby notified that the land acquired for the SYL canal project which is presently vested in the Punjab Government, free from all encumbrances, stands de-notified with immediate effect and shall forthwith vest in the original land owners or their lineal decadents/legal representatives, free of cost.”
Rajpura sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Harpreet Singh Sudan said there are 49 villages in Patiala from where land for SYL was acquired, and most were in Rajpura. “Revenue officials are acting as per the government notification,” he said.