DTE Exclusive: ‘Shamlat’ lands hold key to Dalit empowerment; alleviation of rural poverty in Punjab

Dalits, who form 31.94% of Punjab’s population, own just 3.5% of the state’s land

By Dilraj Singh, Bhagirath
Published: Wednesday 11 January 2023
The Dalits of Chabba village, Ferozepur district, submit that the Gram Panchayat had not only passed a resolution to allot plots to 70 Dalit families but also gave them an allotment certificate for the same.

“I will never forget the evening of October 29, 2022, for the rest of my life. The upper-caste residents of our village misused the Gurdwara’s loudspeaker to announce that two men from each household must reach the protest site. Some time after the announcement, a large number of villagers reached our protest site and set it on fire by pouring petrol everywhere. At that time, 15 other women were sitting on the protest site with me. All of us had to flee the spot to save our lives.”

When Pinder Kaur, 26, recollects this incident, she is overwhelmed with anguish. She did not expect that her life would be endangered for demanding her rights. Pinder’s family is one of the 46 Dalit families of Koharka village, who were to be allotted plots measuring five Marlas  (1,125 sq feet) on the orders of the Gram Panchayat. These plots were to be given to the families from the land reserved for Dalits in the village commons.

Pinder, along with the 15 other women, was sitting in protest on October 29 to demand that the allotment be done. On that day, at around 6:30 pm, when most of the Dalit men were labouring in the fields and the women were holding fort at the protest site, a mob of 60-70 people launched an attack on them. Pinder alleges that the assailants were extremely angry due to the demands made by the Dalits. “The assailants forcefully removed us from the spot. They also abused us with casteist slurs,” Pinder told Down To Earth.

A prominent Dalit leader supporting the protest in Koharka is Ranjit Singh, Tarn Taran district president of the Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan (DDVA). He says, “On October 28, one Dalit youth got badly burnt when an upper caste landlord set the stubble in the field he was working in on fire. His motorcycle was badly damaged as well. After this incident, the aggrieved youth lodged a police complaint against the landlord. This angered the upper caste residents of the village. On the very next day, they set the protest site on fire.”

According to Ranjit Singh, “In the wake of rising tension that night, the police was deployed but was withdrawn on the next day. After the incident, 10 Dalit women recorded their statements in the police station but no action was taken by the cops.”

Ten days after the incident, on November 9, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (SC) sought an explanation regarding the action taken in this matter from the Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of Police, Tarn Taran. It is not known whether any reply has been given by these officers to this notice yet. Ranjit Singh believes that the situation in village is still very sensitive and there is apprehension of yet another attack on the Dalits at any time.

Shamlat in Punjab

Dalits comprise 31.94 per cent of Punjab’s total population. The village common land or shamlat also holds high importance for them because they own only 3.5 per cent of the state’s total land. Almost 73.33 per cent of the Dalit population in the state resides in its villages, is largely landless and faces housing shortages as well.

The concept of village common land dates back to centuries in rural Indian tradition. Among its most reliable definitions in different sources, one that stands out was given by the Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgement, Jagpal Singh & Ors v/s State of Punjab & Ors (2011). 

Justice Markandey Katju held that:

Since time immemorial, there have been common lands among the village communities of India, variously called Gram Sabha land, Gram Panchayat land (in many north Indian states), shamlat deh (in Punjab), mandaveli and poramboke land (in south India), Kalam, Maidan, etc, depending on the nature of the user. These public utility lands in the villages were, for centuries, used for the common benefit of the residents of the village. These lands stood vested through local laws in the State, which handed over their management to Gram Sabhas / Gram Panchayats. They were generally treated as inalienable in order that their status as community land be preserved.

According to information received through a Right to Information application filed by Pampa Mukherjee, who teaches political science at Panjab University, there are an estimated 170,000 acres of land falling under the definition of common land or shamlat in Punjab.

The Governing Statutes for shamlat in Punjab are:

  • The Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961.
  • The Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964.

The village common land is divided into cultivable and non-cultivable land. The non-cultivable land is used for fulfilling community needs of the village and most of its schools, dispensaries and ponds are built on this land. The cultivable land, on the other hand, is leased out through auction on a yearly basis to those residents of the village who seek to practice agriculture on it. 

Rule-6 of the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Rules,1964 states that “one-third of the cultivable land proposed to be leased, shall be reserved for members of the Scheduled Castes only”.

Rule 3 (xvi) lays down that village common land may be leased out, for purposes of housing, to families having insufficient accommodation.

Rule 13-A provides that a Panchayat may, with the previous approval of the government, give land in shamlat deh free of cost to a landless worker residing in the Sabha Area for construction of a house for his residence.

Despite these empowering provisions, the majority of SC citizens in rural Punjab continue to be deprived of this shamlat land owing to social dynamics and a lack of political will. The land reforms in Punjab largely benefitted the upper castes and dominant Other Backward Classes whereas the Dalits were completely left out of land redistribution. The dominant agrarian castes exert strong socio-political clout which affects the transparency in common land auctions, to the disadvantage of Dalits.

A huge percentage of the 33 per cent cultivable common land reserved for Dalits is regularly captured by the upper caste population of villages by using their Dalit labourers as pawn-bidders in the yearly auctions of common lands. The same tactic has been used to capture common lands reserved for Dalits in Koharka and Sherpur Takhtuwala of Ferozepur district. 

Balkar Singh of Sherpur Takhtuwala tells Down To Earth that 150 of the village’s 300 households are Dalit. But even then, Dalits continue to remain largely land-deprived. He also believes that the price of lease of auctioned common land is so high that it is tough for Dalits to emerge as successful bidders.

Allotment of plots

The previous state government under Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had ordered the allotment of five-Marla plots for housing to homeless rural Dalits (According to Rule 13-A of Village Common Land (Regulation) Rules, 1964) and the process was underway throughout the state.

However, after the Assembly elections, the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party government has issued no instructions regarding the continuance of such allotment and the process has been largely stalled. This has angered those who had applied for five-Marla plots and are still waiting for possession.

Legally speaking, the question of five-Marla plots has been dealt with utmost clarity by the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s judgement in Des Raj s/o Khan Chand V/s Sub Divisional Magistrate-cum-Election Tribunal and others (2016) wherein the election of a SC sarpanch was challenged on the ground that he was in possession of an illegal house built on village common land. In reality, the sarpanch had been allotted that house in accordance with provisions of Rule 13-A of the common Land rules, 1964.

The matter, which began with an election dispute, ended up being a path-breaking judgement in defining and safeguarding the rights of those who had been allotted five-Marla plots on village common land. The election of the SC Sarpanch was upheld and his house on village common land was held to be legally valid in the eyes of law. The above judgement brought the issue of five-Marla plots back into the limelight and labour and Dalit unions began to exert more pressure on state governments to allot five-Marla plots according to the mandate of the above judgement.

Last year, subsequent to the orders by former Chief Minister Channi, many Panchayats in Punjab passed a resolution to allot five-Marla plots to Dalits and also issued allotment certificates to many applicants. This brought a ray of hope for the likes of Pinder and other Dalit families as most Dalits reside in extremely congested houses measuring two to four Marlas with utmost difficulty. In fact, in many houses, as many as five to six members reside in a single room. Pinder’s family is also facing a similar plight, with 12 members residing in two small rooms.

According to Ranjit Singh, “Punjab’s Dalit population has an extremely less area of land for housing purpose. The size of their houses is the same as it used to be 50 years ago. In the meantime, the number of family members has increased manifold. Five Marla plots hold the potential to meet this shortage and that’s why a state-wide demand is being made by Dalits for the allotment of the same.”

He further states, “After the order passed by former Chief Minister Channi, the Gram Panchayat of Koharka passed a resolution to allot five-Marla plots to Dalit families in the village and sent applications to the district magistrate who further marked the same to the concerned BDPO (Block Development and Panchayat Officer). But in the meantime, the state witnessed the formation of a new government post the 2022 Assembly elections and the demarcation of land for the allotment of five-Marla plots could not be carried out.”

He goes on to say, “The current government has no clarity of stance on this matter. The government has neither withdrawn / quashed the order issued by its predecessor for the allotment of plots, nor has it made any progress towards the implementation of the same. For this reason, a situation of uncertainty and confusion is prevailing in the state with regard to five-Marla plots. The protest in Koharka, demanding five-Marla plots, has been on since the last eight months. There are roughly 300 families in the village, out of which roughly half are Dalits. The village is home to 15 acres of cultivable common land out, of which 33 per cent, i.e five acres, is reserved for Dalits.”

Dalits have been protesting on the issue of Shamlat lands for eight months now in Koharka village of Tarn Taran district. Photo: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

About 52 kilometres from Koharka, the village of Chabba in Ferozepur is also facing a similar situation. The Dalits of this village submit that the Gram Panchayat had not only passed a resolution to allot plots to 70 Dalit families but also gave them an allotment certificate (sanad) for the same. However, the allotment certificates were later taken back from them by deceitful means.

A village resident, Gurdas Singh, states, “The allotment certificates were issued by the Panchayat on January 3, 2022. After the formation of the new state government in March, the BDPO took back the certificates on the pretext of returning them after signing and stamping. However, the certificates have not been returned till date.”

According to the residents, there are 42 acres of common land in Chabba, of which 28 acres are in possession of upper caste residents and around 14 acres are reserved for SCs. Of these 14 acres, the SC allotees carried out demarcation on three acres themselves and constructed boundary walls on the plots on the eve of Assembly elections. They protested against the yearly auctions of the land and the same has not been conducted till date. The upper caste residents of the village are pressurising them to vacate these three acres and openly threatening to not give them the residential plots at any cost.

Sukhwinder Kaur, a DDVA activist who supports the Dalit protest in this village said the administration, under pressure from upper caste residents, is pressurising the Dalit protestors to vacate the land. But when the protestors provided the details of village common land under the possession of upper caste residents, the administrative officials withdrew the pressure to some extent.

According to Sukhwinder, the administration tried to secretly conduct auction of these three acres in the last week of November 2021. But when the protestors apprised them of the ground reality, the auction was cancelled.

Like Koharka and Chabba, the Dalits of Sherpur Takhtuwala and Wara Pahuwindian villages have also not received the possession of plots despite the resolutions passed by their respective village Panchayats. DDVA is mobilising these protesting Dalits for a state-wide struggle.

Much like DDVA, the Sanjha Mazdoor Morcha, a front of seven labour organisations in Punjab, is not only raising the issue of shamlat actively, but is also conveying its views and displeasure in a strident manner to the government.

In this connection, the Morcha organised a big demonstration on November 20, 2022 outside the residence of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann in Sangrur. About 10,000 people participated in this demonstration. Mukesh Malaudh, president of the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC), which is part of the Morcha, told Down To Earth that the police used batons to disperse the protesters and pushed them back.

When the protesters’ anger boiled over, the administration assured that it will let them hold a meeting with Mann on December 21, 2022. Mukesh said he and the others had gone to meet Mann on December 21. But he did not come to the meeting.

He also says that the chief minister has promised to meet them several times in the past too. But every time, the meeting has been cancelled. Mukesh says that the government has already accepted many of the demands related to shamlat verbally. But no steps have been taken so far to implement them.

Mukherjee, who has a deep understanding of shamlat issues, links the land struggle of Dalits with their identity and says that in the feudal system of Punjab, Dalits have been greatly exploited by forward castes. She says, “Their struggle for land is not only for survival but also for their collective identity. Their existence is also linked with the land.”

The cultivable shamlat land reserved for Dalits in Punjab is a victim of large-scale irregularities. The biggest problem is upper caste people using a Dalit as a front to grab shamlat, as has been seen in Koharka and Sherpur Taktuwala villages. In this way, shamlat land is registered in the name of a Dalit on paper, but is cultivated only by upper caste people. This artificially inflates the bidding amount of Dalit quota land and makes it difficult for poor labourers to participate successfully.

The denial of land rights to Dalits has been gradually institutionalised in the state’s societal as well as political set up over the course of seven decades since independence. To reverse this discriminatory trend, extraordinary measures shall have to be put into place by the state government with immediate effect.

The auctions in an overwhelming majority of Punjab villages are being held without adequate compliance with the Punjab Village Common land (Regulation) Rules, 1964, ever since the passing of this Act. The modes of violation and non-compliance are multiple but most prevalent is the lack of advertisement of the auction before at least 15 days of the actual event, as mandated by the Rule-6 (10) (1) of the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Rules, 1964.

In reality, announcements usually are made from the local Gurdwara or any other loudspeaker that the auction is to be held the next day and those interested can come and bid. It then becomes a herculean task for the financially weak SC residents of the village to arrange such a hefty sum of the bidding amount overnight to participate in the auction next day. It is because of this sudden announcement that the big landlords are able to field dummy SC candidates by giving them the bidding amount and later taking over the possession of auctioned land themselves.

The Punjab government, in its notification dated May 9, 2014, had also made it mandatory vide its Clause-5 (4) that the entire process of common land auction shall be videographed in order to ensure transparency. However, according to the statements of most rural people, they have rarely or almost never witnessed an auction being videographed by the officials conducting it. In fact, this year, the chief minister had ordered government officials to videograph auctions, but compliance of this order has been minimal. 

Furthermore, the SC quota lands in shamlat are viewed as soft targets by the land mafia as well as corrupt bureaucrats and politicians who misuse their legitimate authority to illegally usurp these common lands.

Ten years ago, the High Court had appointed a three-member panel headed by Justice Kuldip Singh (retd), a former Supreme Court judge, in May 2012, following a 2007 petition that alleged grabbing of village common land and forest land in the villages of Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar Mohali district around Chandigarh.The tribunal’s reports thereon had named several politicians, police officials and bureaucrats for grabbing Panchayat land in violation of the Periphery and Forest Acts that prohibit the sale of village common land and forest land.

It had scanned records of 38 Mohali villages and found errors in nearly 35,000 sale deeds of property, through which nearly 25,000 acres were illegally occupied. Earlier this year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also sought details of action taken by the Punjab government on the report submitted by the Justice Kuldip Singh Tribunal on the grabbing of shamlat land in Chandigarh’s periphery.

The latest land conflict in Punjab was witnessed in Mattewara forest on the banks of the Sutlej river near Ludhiana where the previous state government had acquired 955 acres of land for building an industrial park. The acquired area is understood to include forest area as well as village common land of a few villages. It was a case which witnessed a socio-legal tussle on a wide variety of conflicts including environmental rights, land rights, common lands protection and forest cover which were not only affecting Dalits in particular but the general public at large as well.

The present Punjab government was moving ahead with an intent to build the controversial industrial park amid a mass protest by opposition parties, labour unions, farmer unions and most importantly, the general public. Eventually, the state government had to cede to popular sentiments and abandon the controversial project in July this year.

Thus, the village common land allotment to Dalits and its acquisition for commercial projects, both constitute a major land conflict in Punjab.

Labour and Dalit organisations have, from time-to-time, carried out mass movements to press upon their land rights and shamlat allotments but it is a work in progress. The DDVA is one such group, actively fighting for land rights since 1998 and has recently carried out protests as well as awareness camps for landless labourers to ensure fair allotment of village common lands to rural Dalits. The DDVA motivates rural Dalits for collective bidding and collective farming thereafter, other than suggesting policy reforms to the state government. Another notable organisation in this domain is the ZPSC, active in the Malwa region of Punjab.


Village common lands have assumed even greater significance since the replacement of the erstwhile arbitrary legislation of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR). The LARR makes it compulsory to undertake prior social impact assessment before acquisition, which entails the consent of 70 per cent of affected families in public-private partnership projects and 80 per cent in case of private projects.

Feeling that their hands have been tied by LARR, big private players with governmental support, are now increasingly eyeing village common lands. To this effect, the previous Congress regime led by Captain Amarinder Singh had cleared the proposal of the Rural Development and Panchayats Department for insertion of Rule 12-B in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964 to provide special provision for transfer of shamlat lands for development of industrial infrastructure projects, to be implemented by the Industry Department and Punjab Small Industries & Export Corporation.

The above controversial amendment created a huge stir among the labour and Dalit unions as well as farmer unions who viewed it as a blatant violation of the Supreme Court Judgement in Jagpal Singh & Ors v/s State of Punjab & Ors (2011) wherein it is clearly stated that “In many states, government orders have been issued by the state government permitting allotment of Gram Sabha land to private persons and commercial enterprises on payment of some money. In our opinion, all such government orders are illegal, and should be ignored”.

However, the above-mentioned approval has not yet been added into the official gazette of the state and it seems like the state government, for the time being, has realised that the said amendment would invite mass protests.

Recently, another amendment in the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961 has been met with stiff resistance by farmer unions, wherein the Punjab Government gave cabinet approval to include Jumla Mushtarqa Malkan land within the definition of Shamlat Deh in Section 2 (g) of the said act, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision in State of Haryana v/s Jai Singh.

Jumla Mushtarqa Malkan is land which was acquired during land consolidation as a pro-rata cut from farmers. The underlying objective of such acquisition was to use the acquired land for collective purposes and utilities in villages. However, the said lands could neither be used for collective welfare, nor could these be vested under Panchayats and as such, continued to be in possession of farmers who owned them originally. After the present amendment, the said land falls under the definition of “village common land” and hence the Panchayats might use this amendment to dispossess the farmers currently in possession of such lands. Hence, the protest by the farmer unions.

The protesting farmer unions, led particularly by Gurnam Singh Chaduni, allege this amendment to be the government’s plot to facilitate corporate houses’ entry into village common lands. On the other hand, most labour unions are still waiting for better clarity on the amendment before finalising their stance. The reason is clear: if the said land is added to the cultivable common land for annual lease through auction, it will provide an opportunity for land allotment to greater numbers of landless workers.

Malaudh, ZPSC president, says, “Jumla Mushtarqa Malkan land, upon its inclusion in shamlat land, should be advertised for auction every year. However, if it is handed over to corporates, we will protest against it.”


The first and foremost step in this direction should be the setting up of a ‘Punjab Shamlat Tribunal’ which exclusively deals with matters pertaining to Dalits’ land rights over shamlat land. The rationale behind constituting such a tribunal lies in the fact that the yearly auction of village common lands is held in the months of April and May, followed by the paddy sowing season in June.

The allottees who are allotted the cultivable common land through illegalities in auction, usually waste no time in sowing the paddy on such allotted land. Once the paddy is sowed, it is very difficult for the deprived genuine claimant of such land to obtain an interim stay order through the court on such land as the sowed paddy has to be looked after by someone. Co-incidentally, the summer vacation of the High Court also falls in the month of June wherein it functions as a Vacation Bench with reduced capacity.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court is under immense workload due to pendency of cases during the COVID-19 lockdown. The requisite time for summoning and receiving replies of respondents before final arguments usually entails two to four months on average. Thus, if a petitioner who claims to be wronged during the auction of village common land fails to obtain an interim stay on allotted land on the very first hearing in court, the disputed allottee would easily be able to sow paddy on such land much before the petition reaches the stage of final arguments.

On the other hand, if it is assumed for sake of argument that the court is able to grant interim stays on most of the petitions filed in the months of April and May, it would not be a desirable scenario for the state’s total production of paddy as thousands of acres of village common land would be left fallow.

To avoid such a situation, it is only feasible that the state government should constitute a Shamlat Tribunal headed by a retired judge of the High Court, assisted by two other presiding members from an Executive background with a thorough experience of land and revenue matters in the state. This measure can bring about an unprecedented revolution in matters of land allocation on lease to Dalits and landless labourers.

Secondly, immediate reforms are needed in payment methods of the village common land in annual auctions. Presently, the successful bidder is required to pay the whole amount of lease on the day of the auction itself which creates difficulties for poorer sections of society in arranging such amounts. It is therefore desirable that an easy instalment system be introduced by the state government to allow the poor bidders to pay the amount of such lease in three to four annual instalments. This step can go a long way in curbing the practice of dummy candidates being fielded by the affluent residents of village in common land auctions.

Thirdly, the videographic record of each auction of village common land should be readily available with the Village Panchayat and the BDPO office. If any resident wishes to review such a video, it should be handed over to him without the need of going through the Right to Information route as the same is time consuming and an aggrieved person is likely to be in a hurry to use such a video as evidentiary proof before a court of law at the earliest possibility.

Fourthly, a Common Land Reforms Commission should be constituted by the government with a mandate to utilise the common lands of Punjab to their best capacity. The non-cultivable area of common lands holds the key to boost agrarian entrepreneurship among village residents and eventually eliminate rural poverty. Such common lands should be extensively allotted to landless labourers or SC residents to set up small scale businesses such as dairy farming, horticulture, pig rearing, etc. The provision empowering a Panchayat to set up a wide range of small-scale businesses including those mentioned above, has already been provided under Rule-3 of The Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Rules, 1964. However, the above provision continues to be incredibly under-utilised till date.

There is a wide range of challenges and grounds of conflict in the village common lands of Punjab which, if addressed with appropriate expertise and requisite political will, may well be turned into golden opportunities of progress. It will not be an over-statement to submit that the “village common lands hold the key to alleviate rural poverty”.

Historical background of land ownership

At the time of redistribution of surplus land area during land reform, the Dalits were placed at the bottom of the agricultural pyramid without any possession of the cultivable land and due to this, they were completely ignored in the redistribution process.”

Absentee landlordism was a significant feature of land holdings during the Mughal and British periods in Indian history. In Punjab around 1710, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur led a historic campaign for the abolition of the Zamindari system and conferred the ownership rights on actual tillers of the land. This campaign strengthened the peasants and challenged the absolutism of landlords backed by the then Mughal government. This campaign lent an upward mobility to socio-economic status of castes which were traditionally engaged in agricultural occupations.

Thereafter, the status of these land-owning castes, especially the Jatt Sikhs, was further consolidated upon formation of the 12 Sikh Misls (the Sikh Confederacy) and subsequently during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign over areas situated to the north of the Sutlej or trans-Sutlej (mainly Majha and Doaba). Similar trends were observed in areas situated to the south of the Sutlej or cis-Sutlej (mainly Malwa) ruled by other Sikh rulers.

However, British dominance over Sikh rulers in Malwa led to a strong prevalence of the Zamindari system in the region, especially the erstwhile PEPSU (Patiala and East Punjab States Union). The land ownership was primarily vested in a handful of Zamindar families whose estates ran into thousands of acres tilled by tenants or peasants referred to as Muzaras locally. It is worth noting that these Zamindars as well as the Muzaras belonged to similar agrarian caste groups but were separated in their social standing on the basis of land ownership.

When India achieved independence and various land reform legislations were rolled out in different states of the country, including Punjab, the Malwa region of Punjab witnessed the famous PEPSU Muzara movement wherein the rallying cry was “The land belongs to tiller”. The movement was a big success and the surplus land freed from erstwhile Zamindars was redistributed amongst the Muzaras or crop-tenants. The movement began in the 1950s and the struggle for the redistribution of surplus land to the Muzaras continued up till the 1970s.

The primary legislations governing the redistribution of land to its actual tillers were the Punjab Land Reforms Act, 1972 and the Punjab Utilization of Surplus Area Scheme, 1973. Prior to these legislations, the majority of land reforms were being dealt by the East Punjab Land Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act 1948, Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953 and PEPSU Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act, 1955. With these legislations, a limit of 18 standard quality acres was placed on each agricultural household.

After the implementation of the Land Reforms Act, 1972, most of the provisions of the prior-mentioned Acts were either repealed or absorbed within this Act. Section-6 of the Punjab Utilization of Surplus Area Scheme laid down the procedure to redistribute the surplus land area and although the provision expressly mentions the members of SCs and backward castes, along with the tenants of lands in question as the eligible beneficiaries, the executive functioning of the State gave a clear preference to tenants in possession of the said lands while redistributing the surplus lands; Thus, leaving out almost the entire SC population of Punjab from the ambit of land allocation along with a major chunk of weaker Backward Castes.

The deprived sections also allege that “collusive tenants” were set up by many landlords to transfer their surplus lands in favour of their confidants instead of poorer sections of society. This, along with many other lacunae in implementation of land reforms, resulted in gross disparities in redistribution of surplus land in Punjab.

The SC farm labourers of the state can’t help but raise a fair question: “If the principle for land ownership is that the land belongs to the tiller, why have we been left out of land redistribution despite tilling the State’s agricultural lands since centuries?”

In the backdrop of such historical deprivation of land, the only source of enjoying land rights for SCs, presently, are the village common lands of the state. The village common lands also assume significance from the point of view of housing rights of SC populations in villages. 

Read more:

Dilraj Singh reported from Chandigarh and Bhagirath Srivas from Ferozepur

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