GANDHINAGAR: Despite Supreme Court's order to clear encroachments and restrict sale of pastoral (gauchar) land, Gujarat still has more than 12,000 cases related to illegal possession of pastoral lands.
The apex court, had in January 2011, stated that "pastoral lands and other community resources belonging to a village shall not be given for industrial or commercial use and should strictly be used for communities' use".
The court had directed all the state governments to formulate schemes for eviction of illegal or unauthorized occupants of land meant for gram sabha, gram panchayat and other community uses and said that "long duration of such illegal occupation or huge expenditure on constructions thereon or political connections must not be treated as justification for condoning this illegal act or for regularizing the illegal possession".
Even after more than three years, the state government has failed to come out with new guidelines or a policy for removing the unauthorized occupants or encroachments on 'gauchar' and other public lands. According to the recent status report of the state government, there are more than 11,950 registered encroachments on 'gauchar' lands, of which majority are more than five years old. According to the state government official figures, highest 'Gauchar' encroachment was registered in Gandhinagar (1,776). It was followed by Patan (1,722), Amreli (1,212), Ahmedabad (1,193) and Mehsana (1,093).
Pastoral land is the common property of a village owned by the government. Despite several restrictions by the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court, the government gave away more than 1.16 lakh square metres of 'gauchar' land in last four years in five districts of the state.
In Gujarat, around 424 villages have no pastoral land left. The state should have 39.56 lakh hectares of grazing land, according to a revenue department notification issued in December 1988, which mandated 16 hectares (40 acres) of pastoral land for 100 animals in normal areas and 8 hectares (20 acres) for the same in forest areas.
A senior government official of the state revenue department said, "Encroachers are politically inclined, so local bodies also avoid reporting or removing a encroachment. A lot of encroachments are made by powerful industries and political persons, so administration also doesn't take any action. Only encroachments of small time landless labourers are removed. The new 'gauchar' policy is stuck at the top level.''