Even as the Punjab government’s decision to denotify the land acquired for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal has made farmers ‘millionares’ overnight, it has brought some unexpected uneasiness for them.
In this village that falls under an area declared industrial hub by the Punjab government, land costs between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 50 lakh per acre.
Gursharan Virk, who got back 8 acres from the government without paying even a single penny, has become owner of land worth around Rs 3 crore. Though he has become ‘crorepati’ as per his land in the revenue records, he is not happy.
“On Saturday, I was having only six acres and was happy. On Monday, I became owner of 14 acres but I am worried. The SYL canal is nearly 50-ft deep. Its bottom is concrete and banks have around 30-ft concrete lining. The sand mafia has dug up the land inside the canal and sold the sand. If I have to use this land for cultivation, I have to spend Rs 10 lakh to Rs15 lakh per acre to demolish the concrete work, uproot trees and then level the land with other fields, by filling earth up to 50 ft. I don’t have the means to do so,” he said.
Virk was among the first ones to take the ‘fard’ (revenue record) and turn up to take possession of the land. The other two such owners, Kulbir Singh and Kuldip Singh, are in the same boat. Each one has got two acres back as they have more legal heirs of the land owned by their grandfathers.
LEVELLING OF CANAL COSTLY AFFAIR
Levelling of the canal is a costly affair and farmers have neither adequate money nor machinery for it.
Like Virk, some farmers have taken symbolic possession of the land, but no one has undertaken the levelling of the canal, saying they cannot afford it.
“We can’t level the canal without the government help. The government should return us land in the same condition, in which it was acquired, said a beneficiary farmer. “When the land was acquired, my grandfather was had cultivation of cauliflower in it. Now it’s a jungle, with deep bottom as earth has been dug up by land mafia”, he added.
The uneasiness of farmers does not stop here. As the SYL case is still listed in the Supreme Court for hearing, the farmers are cautious and anxious.
Peasants also contend that they cannot spend money for land which is still under ‘question’. Any adverse decision from the court, they argue, can undo their whole effort. Therefore, they are adopting a ‘wait and watch’ policy over taking physical possession of the land.
“We won’t spend a single penny until the Supreme Court gives the final verdict. In March last year, farmers had felled some trees and forest officials later booked many of us. For us, the denotification of the land is a mere entry in revenue records so far,” said Ramesh, a villager,
‘USE SYL AS CANAL FOR PUNJAB’
Meanwhile several farmers have come up with a suggestion that the 122-km stretch of SYL canal be not demolished and instead be used for irrigation purpose within Punjab.
“The land has value for us, but more precious is water. The water level in the area has gone down up to 400 ft. Instead of demolishing the canal, the Punjab government should use it for irrigation within the state limits. It will benefit farmers of Ropar, Mohali, Fathegarh Sahib and Patiala districts,” said Sanjiv Sood, who has got 1-kanal land back. Several farmers of Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts endorsed his demand.
Meanwhile, revenue officials claim that though they have spent sleepless nights to transfer the SYL land back to farmers in the records, the peasants are not keen to take ‘fards’. Only seven ‘fards’ have been collected in Patiala district whereas just one farmer has applied for it in Fatehgarh Sahib.