Dalits take possession of common land in Balad Kalan
SANGRUR: Tension mounted again in Balad Kalan village of Sangrur district on Thursday when around 450 of its Dalit residents took possession of 128 acres of village common land and announced to start tilling it by Friday noon.
Over 130 dalit families of Balad Kalan, who had begun arranging logistics to till the land, took possession after officials of department of rural development and Panchayati Raj failed to organize even a single bidding for land for kharif season.
Only Dalits can bid for the chunk of village common land, which is leased out to tillers every year through auction by Panchayati Raj department. Dalits want that village common land should be leased out to them at the rate of Rs 4,700 per bigha for the coming year. However, officials don’t want to not to lower rates below Rs 5,300 per bigha at which the land was auctioned last year.
“This land is not meant to earn profit for Panchayati Raj department but for sustenance of poor Dalits. Department is citing rule that they can’t auction land at the rates lower than last year. But Punjab’s Panchayati Raj minister had given statement that such lands would be leased to Dalits at rates 10% lower than last year. Therefore, we are ready to pay Rs 4,700 per bigha”, said Dalit leader Rampal Singh, who is also president of Zameen Prapati Sangharsh Committee, Balad Kalan.
He said that the department didn’t organize even a single bidding for the land. “We are waiting for them to lease out land to us on our terms. Otherwise, we would start tilling this land from Friday noon. We are hopeful that department would concede to our demand,” added Rampal. A similar agitation was started by Dalits of Balad Kalan in May-June last year. Over a dozen Dalits were also sent to jail after a violent clash with the police. The issue was even raised in the Parliament by a Congress MP from Punjab. Ultimately, the government had agreed to lease out the land to Dalits in November as per their terms.