Tinkering with Himachal land ceiling laws – a bone contention

Shimla: Land issues fast becoming an integral part of the opposition congress’s election campaign have found support with farmers outfits who hold that besides land for agricultural use, ceiling laws for all other usage are proposed to done away with.

“Free agricultural land from ceiling laws,” says ID Bali, president All Himachal People Conference (AHPC).

“An amendment (Bill No 19 of 2011) to the HP Ceiling of Land Holdings Act 1972 that is before the select committee intends to exempt all other categories from ceiling laws barring the farming community for agricultural usage,” he said here today.

The proposed amendment is a clear fraud being played out on the people of the state and is an open attempt to put Himachal Pradesh on sale, said Bali.

Small farms dot Himachal

With several religious organizations, companies, educational institutions including some private universities alleged to be holding land in excess of the 30 acres land permitted under the ceiling laws, the amendment bill moved in the monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha had raised heat with congress demanding a withdrawal of the bill had staged a walkout.

Revenue minister Gulab Singh Thakur, who is chairman of the Vidhan Sabha select committee reviewing the proposed amendment told Hill Post, “the house committee with give its report in the forthcoming winter session of the Vidhan Sabha.

“The matter is under active consideration of the committee, one meeting has been held and after holding another meeting, we will be in a position to inform the house about it. Interests of farmers would be paramount,” he said.

With congress lawmakers having decided to boycott the house committee, the minister said, “the opposition may have a view on the proposed amendment but we will carry out the job assigned by the house.”

While the amendment proposes to exempt companies, hydel project, tourism units, information and bio technology parks, religious or spiritual bodies, organizations or promoters propagating moral or secular teachings and organizations creating or maintaining educational or sports infrastructures from the ceiling laws, Bali says, “the amendment if carried will strengthen land mafia and create inequalities and disparities.”

Taking a tough stand, congress leader Harshwardhan says the proposed amendment was not in favor of Himachal farmers.

“The government has not been able to spell out what the compulsions were for amending the law, how many applications seeking exemption from land ceiling laws were pending and what the new ceiling limits would be, he said?

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