Saturday, August 27, 2005

Stamped Impressions
NRIs land in trouble
Reeta Sharma

A majority of the NRIs in Punjab remain a harassed lot, when it comes to the safety of their properties. Hundreds of them have approached the recently created NRI Cell of the state and lodged complaints of having been cheated in property matters either by real brothers, friends or neighbours. The NRIs are unable to monitor their property and assets on a regular basis. They have no option but to trust their kith and kin, friends or neighbours.

The police records of the past four-five decades establish that it is largely the persons trusted by NRIs who have grabbed their properties. The police and the other departments concerned have done precious little to bring the culprits to book or provide relief to them.

Jeevan Datt, an ex-serviceman from Nurmahal in Jalandhar district, migrated to the UK since his son was already settled there. In his letter to the Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, he writes: "In our village, Pandit Ravi Dutt Sharma, an astrologer, lived with his son Chander Shekhar. As is the norm in villages, they were family. Chander Shekhar addressed me as chachaji. After I settled down in the UK, it was my heartfelt desire to do something for my village. I bought a piece of land to open a library and a satsang bhavan on it. In the registered deal of this land, Sharma signed as a witness.

"Chander Shekhar displayed a keen interest in completing the entire project on my behalf. I paid him the first instalment of Rs 25,000 in cash but thereafter his behaviour changed drastically. During my next visit, much to my dismay, I found that in connivance with local officials Chander Shekhar had tampered with the official records to show himself as the "owner" of the land. This way, he grabbed my property.

"Mr Chief Minister, what hurts me more is that on two occasions when I went to speak to Chander Shekhar, his behaviour was almost inhuman. On one occasion, his family members lied that he was not at home, while the neighbours confirmed that he was present. The second time, he purposely let loose his dog on me. The dog bit me and I received five injections to prevent rabies. After having suffered such humiliation and agony, I now appeal to you to kindly help restore my property to me."

Yet another case relates to one Amrik Singh of Bhatiala village in Faridkot district. In this case, his real brother Harjit Singh allegedly grabbed his land. The brothers own 56 acres. Their parents have passed away and the relations have not been able to settle the dispute. At present, Amrik Singh is settled in Canada and has been struggling for the past 11 years to take possession of his share of the land. Harjit Singh has allegedly been physically assaulting him. The local police and other officials are of no help to him.

Similarly, the case of Shingara Singh of Baltana village in Hoshairpur district is an example of the trend of brothers or relatives grabbing the property of NRI kinsmen. Shingara Singh and his three brothers own 62 acres. He willingly allowed them to till the land and keep all produce and earnings with them, since he did not need any money in Holland because of a successful restaurant business that he ran. When one of his brothers passed away and his wife and five children were left alone to fend for themselves, he wanted to give his share to her children. His brothers, however, were unhappy with his decision. Thereon, Shingara began to face humiliation from his brothers, who earlier welcomed him warmly whenever he visited his village.

Shingara too has been running from pillar to post to take possession of his land but in vain. He too has written a letter to the Punjab Chief Minister. The NRI cell is processing these complaints to order an inquiry.

The NRI Cell has been opened mainly to solve these complicated cases. The NRI Helpline has also been established in each district.