Posted On May 28, 2020

Barnala: Barnala district administration cancelled the auction of shamlat land of three villages on Wednesday, after members of the Dalit community alleged that a handful of influential persons stage-managed the process, including the auction of 33% village common land reserved for scheduled caste (SC) communities.

The shamlat land falls in Pakho Kalan, Dhilwan and Ramgarh villages.

Dalits alleged that the gram panchayats of the three villages ignored their community’s right on one-third share of shamlat land while auctioning it some days ago. They said the auctions were not held in a legal manner as some influential persons made their helpers take part in the auctions and get land in auction for them, ultimately benefitting from the process.

Aam Aadmi Party MLA Pirmal Singh Khalsa intervened on coming to know of the issue and approached deputy commissioner (DC) Tej Partap Singh Phoolka. The DC confirmed that he got complaints and he had asked officials to hold the auction again. The exercise is scheduled to take place on Friday.

Punjab has 1.4 lakh acres of shamlat land in nearly 8,000 villages. Of this, one-third is reserved for Dalits. Normally, the average lease rent of shamlat land is Rs. 20,000 per acre from land reserved for Dalits and Rs. 28,000-30,000 per acre from land meant for general category. The state government and village panchayats earn over Rs. 350 crore from the auctions.

The annual open auction of common village lands started in April, despite objections over the timing as many people had suffered losses in the lockdown and were not in a position to pay. Dalit organisations demanded that these people be allowed to continue occupying the land. Organisations also demanded that at least the land reserved for Dalits be excluded from the auctions for now.

The MLA said he had gotten complaints of procedure not being followed in auction of panchayat lands. “For the auction meant for Dalits, persons from general category are not allowed to take part and auction is to be held at a place of the community, like a bhavan or dharamshala. Still, auctions were held at a common place of the villages,” said the MLA.

He said this might have happened at more villages and his party would check this.