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‘We will get every inch of encroached land vacated, nobody bigger than Punjab’: Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal

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A Punjab government initiative to remove encroachments from prime public land last month has started yielding results with rural development department claiming to have freed 1,100 acres of such land freed in less than a fortnight. A mammoth challenge, however, lies ahead as hundreds of acres have been encroached by influential people. Punjab Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal speaks to The Indian Express on the issue:

How much land do you think has been encroached upon?

There is no exact figure. We have estimated that about 50,000 acres has been encroached upon. It could be more or it could be less also. I have set up a Shamlat Cell. The Cell would now start identifying the lands, which have been illegally occupied in all districts and prepare a report. We will get all those vacated. The Cell will not only identify the land but also fight cases. It will also collect all data and bring it on table.

So, how have you identified these 1100 acres that have been vacated till date?

We are acting on the complaints of people. We received inputs from villages, panchayats and even NRIs. Several NRIs have come forward to help the government with information.

What does the government plan to do with the land that it intends to get vacated?

We will give the agricultural panchayat land on lease. We also have commercial properties, which will be vacated. We will see what is to be done. We may give those properties on rent or sell them.

What is the worth of this land?

Some acres that have been vacated in the recent past were located on major roads. Such lands are worth of Rs 4 crore per acre. But in some areas land prices are as low as Rs 10 lakh per acre. So we have calculated the price of 1,100 acres got vacated by us to be Rs 302 crore.

Are you not acting on Justice Kuldeep Singh (retd) and former ADGP B Chandra Shekhar’s report?

I have already met Chandra Shekhar on the issue. We will also look at Justice Kuldeep Singh report. These reports are about encroachments in periphery of Chandigarh. We will study them and act.

Those reports have several influential politicians, IAS and police officers on the list of those illegally grabbing the land. No action has followed till date.

We will not spare anyone. We will take action. No matter what. We will get every inch vacated. As Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has already appealed to people to vacate the land by May 31, failing which they would have to pay rent and face cases. Several people are voluntarily vacating the land. If they do not do so, we will start taking action after May 31. Nobody will be spared. We mean business. We have even told our party leaders that if they have grabbed any piece of land, they should vacate it. Nobody is bigger than Punjab. The CM will issue a WhatAap number soon where people would be called to tip us off on such encroachments.

What about the land encroached by religious places?

We will not say anything to religious places. Also, we will not take action if the land has been used for constructing schools or stadium.

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