The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Himachal Pradesh has violated land laws by granting permission to Team Anna member and counsel Prashant Bhushan to purchase a huge chunk of land that was meant for a tea estate, union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Virbhadra Singh said here Tuesday.
“A tea garden (in Palampur town in Kangra district) has been allowed to be purchased by leading lawyer Prashant Bhushan’s (Kumud Bhushan Educational) society by violating the Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act of 1972,” Virbhadra Singh, a five-time former chief minister and Congress leader, told reporters.
"There is a violation of the norms on change of land use (from cultivating tea to constructing a school building). The Congress will review such controversial decisions when it comes to power in the state," he said.
He said all the tea gardens in the state were given special exemption under the law that envisaged ceiling on land holdings with a view to controlling concentration of land in a few hands.
The ceiling fixed for tea gardens is 30 acres, whereas for irrigated lands producing two crops and one crop is 10 acres and 15 acres, respectively.
The government’s decision to allow Bhushan to purchase land came to light during the winter session of the assembly.
Revenue Minister Gulab Singh said in reply to a question: “From Jan 1, 2008 to Nov 30, 2011, land use change" had been allowed under Section 118 (of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act) to Kumud Bhushan Educational Society of Kandbari (in Kangra district) for purchasing tea gardens.
He said that the society was run by Prashant Bhushan.
Under state land laws, only the state’s permanent residents can buy land in the state. Others who want to purchase land for non-agricultural purposes need to seek relaxations under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act from the state government.
Virbhadra Singh alleged that government functionaries were promoting realtors.
He slammed the state government for allowing a private builder to construct an ultra-luxurious housing project in Shimla and allowing private companies to set up eco-tourism projects in prime forest land.
“Huge concrete structures have come up in thick forests. One Nagpur-based company has been allotted six tourism projects. All such projects are a farce,” he said.