Himachal Govt under pressure to allow tea land sale for cantonment

Himachal Govt under pressure to allow tea land sale for cantonment

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, February 13

The issue of giving 60 acres of prime land under tea cultivation at Chachiyan near Palampur for the setting up of an army cantonment has once again come into focus with the Law Department giving its opinion.

The issue has been under the active consideration of not just this government but even the previous Congress regime headed by Virbhadra Singh. With the Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1972 barring change of land use in case of tea gardens, the opinion of the Law department and Advocate General had been sought by the state government.

The Revenue Department was keen to get the legal viewpoint on the issue of allowing sale of 60 acres of land to the Defence Ministry for a cantonment. Sources in the department said that the matter will finally be decided by the Cabinet along with legal opinion. “The issue is not just confined to diverting land under tea cultivation as it will amount to change of land use but also who will receive the land compensation,” revealed an official.

However, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has in the past expressed his reluctance in allowing diversion of land under tea for any other purpose. He had said making an exception will open up a pandora’s box and many more such requests will pour in. Now it remains to be seen whether the government takes a firm stand or succumbs to pressure to allow sale of the land.

The army is keen to set up a cantonment close to Chachiyan near Palampur and the land requirement for this is huge. “Since the issue pertains to the defence of the country, the land could possibly be given but then the question as to who gets the land compensation to be provided by the Defence Ministry remains to be dealt with,” said an official.

As per revenue laws, the land that tea garden owners were allowed to retain, over and above the permissible limit under Land Ceiling Act, cannot be sold. Moreover, even if the Cabinet decides sale of this land to the Defence Ministry, the money will go to the kitty of the state government and not the owners as there is a specified time limit till which the owners of the tea garden could have claimed it.

An attempt had been made during the previous BJP regime in 2011 and by the Congress Government in 2015 and later in 2016 to find a way out by which sale of land under tea could be made permissible. Even now there is immense pressure by the powerful tea estate owners to somehow get a relaxation, which if made once can be given to more tea growers.


Cabinet to take a call

  • The Revenue Department was keen to get a legal viewpoint on the issue of allowing sale of 60 acres of land to the Defence Ministry. Sources in the department said the matter will finally be decided by the Cabinet along with the legal opinion. 
  • “The issue is not just confined to diverting land under tea cultivation as it will amount to change of land use but also who will receive the land compensation,” an official said.
  • However, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has in the past expressed his reluctance in allowing diversion of land under tea saying that making an exception will open a pandora’s box.

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