Haryana discreetly consolidates acres of forest land in Kot

The villagers of Kot allege that Ramdev has illegally bought around 1,500 acres of the land for setting up a healthcare facility or a university

By Shagun Kapil
Last Updated: Monday 20 May 2019
Haryana discreetly consolidates acres of forest land in Kot. Photo: Getty Images

Hundreds of acres of forest land in Haryana’s Kot village in Faridabad district is being quietly consolidated and large-scale land is being sold and bought, even as a case challenging the consolidation proceedings is pending with the Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) court. 

The Directorate of Consolidation Holdings, Haryana, had in a notification issued on February 1, 2019, ordered to take up consolidation of 31,184 acres of land under the provisions of East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948 and the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961.

Haryana was part of former state of Punjab and thus these Acts are applicable to the state.

Meanwhile, Kesar Singh, a social activist and husband of Kot Sarpanch Mundresh Devi and a few villagers this DTE reporter spoke to said they suspect that using the Act, the government is illegally planning to privatise the village common land (shamlat deh).

According to the 1948 Act, compulsory consolidation can be done only of agricultural holdings. However, the new order says that the consolidation is being done for the purpose of “better cultivation”, while revenue records classify most of the Aravalli hill stretch as ‘gair mumkin pahad’ (uncultivable land) and marks the ownership as shamlat deh.

In 2011, the Supreme Court, while hearing a case (Jagpal Singh vs State of Punjab) on the protection of village common lands, had directed that all common land, including shamlat deh, should be returned to the panchayats.

According to Kot villagers that DTE spoke to, many individuals sold portions of this common land in the late 1970s and early 1980s to outsiders. However, after the apex court order, all such sale was termed illegal and the land was supposed to be restored to the panchayat.

As per records, currently there are 4,656 owners of around 3,184 acres of land.

Following the ruling, the then Gurgaon DC had ordered a legal process to bring this land back to the village. The panchayat filed a case in the local revenue court of the DC, where it is currently pending.  

However, this did not deter the consolidation department of Haryana government to pass the February 1 order.  In fact, this is the fourth such attempt in the last eight years.

It was first initiated in 2011 but was stalled in 2012 by Ashok Khemka, who was then Director General of consolidation of holdings, Haryana. It was attempted again in 2013 and stopped by the National Green Tribunal in 2014.

Yet again in 2018, the government tried to bring in a similar order, but got stuck and finally issued the notification in February 2019. The process is still on, even as the matter is sub-judice.

“Last hearing was on January 29 but no further date has been given yet,” Singh said, adding that besides the legality of the consolidation of the forest land, the hastened manner in which the process is being carried out is worrisome.

“No rules are being followed. In a formal process, a committee is formed which consults the villagers and tells them how much share of land is coming under them. Then, in consultation with the people, it reserves land for community activities, grassland for cows, for schools, religious places and for panchayat development. All this has been ignored,” Singh rued.  

Adding to the worry is around 1,500 acres of the land that is allegedly being bought by yoga guru Ramdev for setting up a healthcare facility or a university. The villagers claim that Ramdev is illegally building a land bank in Kot village by buying shares from outsiders to whom the land was sold decades ago but technically belongs to the panchayat after the SC order.

“Since registry of this land is not allowed, he is instead purchasing it through a number of power of attorneys to circumvent the ban,” says Singh. He adds that at least 104 such General Power of Attorney is under one name: Pravin Sharma, a resident of Faridabad and an associate of Ramdev.

“We discovered this when recently all disputed owners of the land were asked to present themselves in the ongoing case and one Pravin Sharma appeared for at least 104 owners saying he is responsible for their shares,” Singh said.

The villagers maintain that as soon as consolidation gets completed, the yoga guru will be able to transfer land in his company’s name and curb any opposition regarding his ownership.

Calls to the District Development Panchayat Officer, Faridabad and Patanjali went unanswered. The story will be updated as more details emerge.

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