In an exclusive report of the Business Standard published on June 6, it has been revealed that Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Group acquired over 400 acres of land in Haryana’s Aravalli region in Faridabad district. The transactions for largescale forest land took place between 2014 and 2016, the report said noting that the acquired land was “common land” or shamlat deh.
In 2011, the Supreme Court, while hearing a case (Jagpal Singh vs State of Punjab) on the protection of village common lands, had directed that all common land, including shamlat deh, should be returned to the panchayats.
However, in February, the Haryana Assembly amended the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1990, opening up thousands of acres in the mountain ranges for real estate development and mining. Following this, the Supreme Court had sharply rebuked it for trying to “destroy the forest”. The top court had barred any action under the amended Act.
The notification issued on February 1, 2019, ordered that taking up of consolidation of 31,184 acres of land under the provisions of East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948 and the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961. According to the 1948 Act, compulsory consolidation can be done only of agricultural holdings. However, the new order says that consolidation is being done for the purpose of “better cultivation”, while revenue records classify most of the Aravalli hills stretch as ‘gair mumkin pahad’ (uncultivable land) and marks the ownership as shamlat deh.
Also read: https://www.newsclick.in/bjp-led-haryana-govt-amends-law-open-60000-acres-forest-land
How was the land acquired?
The report details how the consolidation proceedings, which were oriented towards recovering all lands, were allegedly purchased illegally before the Supreme Court order, which is pending with the Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner’s court. In 2018, four individuals reportedly claimed in the court that they collectively represented more than 321 of the disputed owners of common lands.
Pravin Kumar Sharma, a resident of Faridabad, had submitted documents for at least 104 land owners through power of attorney agreements. Sharma, a resident of Faridabad, is an authorised representative of a company called Herbo Ved Gram Private Limited.
Detailing on the transfer of shared the report says:
“As per regulatory filings until 2016-’17, yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Limited owned 100% shares of Herbo Ved Gram Private Limited. In the following financial year, 2017-’18, the ownership of 99% of these shares were transferred to Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdev’s business associate.”
Documents accessed by the Business Standard reveal that the company’s filings reflect how it had made unsecured interest free advances to the real-estate agent Pravin Kumar Sharma to buy lands and listed names of the landowners in Kot village who were paid advances against their lands.
The report is a a part of a three part series by the Business Standard; this story will be updated.