Leasehold to freehold, kicks up land row in Himachal

Shimla: The state cabinet’s in principal decision to convert leasehold land into freehold on has kicked up a controversy, with Communist Party of India (Marxists) and congress terming it a sellout to vested interest that was in gross violation of states land laws.

Defending the state cabinet decision to set up a sub-committee for considering and making recommendations for change of leasehold land into freehold, revenue minister Gulab Singh Thakur said, “it would provide relief to a vexed problem because many people for years have been demanding it.”

As head of a four member cabinet sub-committee he said, we will go into all aspects of leasehold land holdings before making any recommendations for it being converted into freehold.”

“Duration of the lease, type of lease, encroachments etc would be considered,” he said adding such a move would help to protect public lands from being encroached upon and also increase revenues.

Opposition Congress has debunked the government proposal as a sellout and pandering to the interests of business houses, real estate players and others.

“The congress opposes conversion of leasehold into freehold land,’ said Kuldeep Rahtore, the congress spokesman “for it not only violates the states land ceiling Act but also benefits the influential class.”

He added that the BJP government was again tinkering with the states land laws.

“During 1998-2003 when BJP was in power, mass illegal encroachments were encouraged under the garb that they would be regularized. The issue has not been revisited again after the court pulled the curtains down on plunder of public lands and now the government is looking to convert leasehold lands into freehold for the benefit of selected few, said Rathore.

President Himachal Kishan Sabha Kuldeep Tanwar was more categorical. He said, “it was clear move by the state apparatus to transfer public lands to religious, social, industrial or other vested groups for ultimately being converted into private or commercial lands.”

Citing the case of a reputed religious trust, which was given a lease of 100 bigha land near Shimla, some years ago, Tanwar said, “there are many such religious or social trusts carrying out their activities for these leased lands in the state who stand to benefit by the governments proposal.”

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