Shamlat land illegal occupation: Govt losing ₹20 cr yearly as 9,500 acres encroached in Doaba, Majha, says report
The government seems to have turned a blind eye towards illegal occupation of 9,500 acres of shamlat land (village common land) in eight districts of Doaba and Majha regions, which fall under the Jalandhar division. In Punjab, there is around 1.70 lakh acres of shamlat land. The Doaba region has four districts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, while Majha has Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts.
HT accessed a report compiled by collector, panchayat lands, and divisional deputy director of Jalandhar division, Jagwinderjit Singh Sandhu, which says around 9,500 acres of shamlat land worth ₹2,000 crore is under encroachment with the “connivance” of rural and panchayat development department officials. The report underlines a loss of at least ₹20 crore per annum to the exchequer vis a vis if the government had leased it out as per rules. The report was submitted to additional chief secretary of the department Seema Jain in March this year.
Among the eight districts, highest 4,000 acres were encroached in Kapurthala, 1,426 acres in Jalandhar, 1,044 in Amritsar, 926 in Gurdaspur, 701 in Hoshiarpur, 646 in Tarn Taran, 534 in Shaheed Bhagat Singh and 137 in Pathankot districts.
On May 12, Sandhu wrote to district development and panchayat officers of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur, highlighting that around 1,800 acres of common land in their respective districts was under encroachment due to the connivance of department officials. He also directed that in case the encroached land is not auctioned this year or case not filed for removal of encroachment in the collector court, panchayat officers’ responsibility will be fixed. “You are directed to vacate the encroached shamlat land and any delay will be taken as serious lapse,” says the letter.
Rural development and panchayat department, director, Manpreet Singh Chattwal, said, “We have directed all our field officers to vacate the encroached panchayat land. We have removed encroachments from panchayat land in almost every block of the state. We have been doing mapping of the panchayat land across the state and will build a consolidated database of the common land.”
Additional chief secretary Seema Jain said she has formed a committee under the divisional deputy director of the department, Jalandhar, to examine encroachments and prepare a report within two months. “We will take action on the basis of the report after the approval of rural development minister,” she said, adding the committee will also keep the Punjab and Haryana high court order in mind as per which no eviction can take place till June 30.
Rural development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said the department vacated a large number of encroachments which led to hike in the revenue of the department.
Bikkar Singh, general secretary of Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee, said a lobby of politicians, officials and influential people didn’t want encroachments removed.