Just a few days back, the BJP-led government in Himachal Pradesh, by use of force had been displacing poor farmers from the encroached land by breaking their houses, cutting down trees grown on the said land whereas on the other hand, the same government is giving it’s friends and organisations associated with the RSS, land worth crores of rupees for money worth peanuts.
The latest example of this is the government’s decision to give Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali a lease of 96 bigha land in Sadhupul of Solan. That too at a price which is lower than what the previous Congress regime had decided to pay. This move is said to incur the state government approximately a loss of over Rs. 100 Crore.
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The decision to lease out the land was taken in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, November 20. Instead of the market rate, Patanjali would get the land on lease for 99 years by giving a meagre lump sum of Rs. 2.39 Crore.
The land was given to Baba Ramdev by a previous BJP government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal, but later this decision was overturned by the successor Congress government. But in a parting stint, the Virbhadra-led Congress government leased the land at Rs. 1.19 Crore per annum to Patanjali.
Loss of More than Rs. 115 Crore
The concerning issue regarding this new deal between the Himachal Government and Patanjali trust is that, had the government stuck to the deal between the former Congress regime and Patanjali which was leasing out the land at a value of Rs.1.19 Crore per annum, it would have incurred profits of more than Rs. 115 Crore than what the current BJP has signed the deal for.
A few months ago, in Himachal, the government cut thousands of trees to remove illegal encroachment of land by apple farmers. It is very surprising that while the whole world is worried about the weak ecosystem, it is trying to reinforce it.
Landless Farmers Evicted to Make Way for Corporations
On the other hand, the farmers indulged in it were mostly landless and they had started growing apples on barren lands as a last resort, and had been working hard on this land for a long time. With their apple trees cut off, the sole means of livelihood of these families virtually ended. However, the government did nothing to provide any alternative means of occupation.
Landless farmers in the state have for a long time been fighting for 5 bigha land, but not a single government has picked up the issue till now. However, the current government is distributing land almost free of cost to big corporations like Patanjali.
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Leaders linked to Left parties in Himachal argue that despite the policies being in place the state government is not attempting to make land available for the poor to build houses. Instead, they are giving a free hand to private companies to exploit the resources of the public which is a violation of the constitutional responsibility of the government.
This is not the first time when the Jairam government is giving the land at such meagre prices to it’s rich friends. The state government had recently approved 22,669.38 square metres of land in Tutikandi to Matrivandana Sanstha, which is linked to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) to run its activities and 257.15 sq. m land in Nabha to Vivekananda Kendra which was owned by the state’s Public Works Department.
The Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) had raised serious questions about it, stating that the BJP government in the state was giving lease to the RSS-affiliated organizations land worth crores of rupees in Shimla. “The State Government is responsible for protecting the resources of the people, including water, forest, land and other resources, and utilise them for the development of the people, but the government is using them for the benefit of a certain section. We condemn this behaviour gravely,” said Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a member of CPI(M).
CPI (M) has demanded that the state government should immediately withdraw the decision to give the property of the people to these institutions and instead develop facilities for its people as this land belongs to them and should be used for them.
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“This type of anti-people decision is contrary to the interests of the people of Shimla and the state will not accept it at all that their resources are looted in this way. If the state government does not withdraw this decision immediately, then the CPI (M) will start an agitation against the anti-people decision of the government in collaboration with the people of the state,” Chauhan said.