Nature of land use changed for Himuda colony?

Lalit Mohan

Indiatimesworld News Service

Dharamsala, September 23

Planning another colony in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh Urban Development Authority (Himuda) acquired 664-acre land from a private owner during the stint of the previous Congress government.

The land on which the colony was being developed was part of famous Mann tea estate of Dharamsala. The sources here said the nature of land was changed from forest to barren to facilitate its takeover by Himuda.

Sources in Himuda told The Tribune that the nature of land that was acquired by urban development authority was forest. However, the then revenue officials allowed correction in the record of the land to change its nature from forest to barren. Later, Himuda acquired it from a private owner at rates of about Rs5.6 lakh per kanal. The cost of the land was negotiated by the then deputy commissioner, the sources told The Tribune.

The sources said now questions are being raised as to how the nature of land was changed from forest to barren by revenue officials.

Officials of Himuda, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in old records the nature of land was barren. However, in later settlements the nature of land was changed to forest. The then revenue officials again changed the nature of the land in question from forest to barren based on the old records.

The present case also brings in picture land ceiling Act. The Himachal government in 1970s brought in the land ceiling Act under which one family was allowed to retain not more than 300 kanal land. Only the owners of tea gardens and horticulturists of upper Himachal were exempted from the land ceiling Act.

In Kangra, the people who owned forest land were allowed to retain extra land only on the condition that the nature of land would remain forest and it would not be used for any other purpose.

In the present case, the owner of land retained more land than was allowed under the land ceiling Act. However, despite that he was allowed by the previous government to sell land to Himuda. How the nature of forest land was converted remains another issue as no forest land can be converted to any other purpose without the consent of special empowered committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

A visit to the land where the Himuda colony was proposed to be developed revealed that it has dense forest over it and thousands of trees would have to be felled in case a colony is developed over it.

SE Himuda, Sandeep Vashisht, said the urban body would soon develop a colony over the 664 kanal land. It would develop the colony on its own and give another planned urban centre to Dharamsala.

The sources here said the way land was purchased by Himuda in alleged violation of the Act during the stint of the previous Congress government, it might become an election issue in the bypoll.

Facilitating takeover

  • The land was part of Mann tea estate of Dharamsala
  • The nature of land was allegedly converted from forest to barren to facilitate its takeover from a private owner to Himuda
  • Questions are being raised as to how the nature of land was changed from forest to barren by revenue officials.