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Dream of buying land in Uttarakhand’s hills? State to bring in Himachal-like law against it

Uttarakhand is looking to bring a new, tougher law that could prohibit non-domiciles from buying land in the state's hill areas.

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Dehradun: Your dream of buying land atop a scenic hill in Uttarakhand may no longer be possible, courtesy of a proposed amendment to the state’s land law that could be introduced later this year. These changes to the land laws, which have been a long-standing demand in the hill state, seek to restrict non-domiciles from buying land in hill areas of Uttarakhand.

Carved out from Uttar Pradesh in 2000, most of Uttarakhand’s laws were initially derived from the parent state.

In 2003, the N.D. Tiwari government amended the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950, paving the way for Uttarakhand’s own version of a land law. The 2003 amendment allowed outsiders to purchase agricultural land in Uttarakhand, but only up to a limit of 500 square metres.

The law was subsequently amended in 2008 by the B.C. Khanduri government to reduce the threshold to 250 square metres.

A decade later, in 2018, the land law was toned down by the Trivendra Singh Rawat government with the addition of two new clauses. These sections allowed any firm, group or individual to purchase agricultural land for the purposes of setting up industrial units in select non-agricultural sectors in Uttarakhand.

However, there have been demands in Uttarakhand for provisions similar to the ones that exist in fellow hill state Himachal Pradesh.

Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act 1972 restricts all non-agriculturalists from buying agricultural land in the state. Those who seek to purchase land have to seek special permission from the state government.

In August 2021, a special committee was formed in Uttarakhand in light of demands for tougher land-purchase restrictions. With the Pushkar Singh Dhami government now looking to amend the 2018 land law, members of the special committee say the plains could be exempted from the amendments.

An official in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), on condition of anonymity, told ThePrint, “There won’t be much restrictions for buying land in municipal areas across the state but the new land law will have all safeguards to prevent purchase of agricultural land, mainly in the hills.”

The state administration is aiming for a land law that will strike a balance between the need for industrial investment and demand for restrictions on purchase of agricultural land in the hills by non-domiciles, say members of the special committee.


Also Read: Let farmers lease land like people rent houses – Land laws are holding India back


‘Committee to finalise report in fortnight’

Speaking to ThePrint, chairman of the committee and former Uttarakhand chief secretary Subhash Kumar said several district magistrates are yet to submit details of land purchase by firms for industrial or other commercial purposes, as sought by the panel.

The committee, he added, will be able to finalise its report within a fortnight of the submission of these details.

“We had a law like Himachal Pradesh [with restrictions] after the N.D. Tiwari government framed the first land law of the state in 2003. The new land law will have imprints of the Himachal Pradesh law as the committee’s report will take care of the popular demand for a new land law in the state,” Subhash Kumar told ThePrint.

“There has been a slight delay in finalising the report. Several district magistrates did not provide the status of land purchased by firms or individuals for commercial activities after 2003,” he said. “This was done [information was sought] to understand the extent of the terms and conditions fulfilled by the buyer for the purpose for which they were given land.”

Kumar said district magistrates have been issued fresh notices and the last date for providing the feedback is 21 April. “The report will be submitted to the government within a fortnight of that,” he added.

‘Separate provisions for hills and plains’

Committee member and BJP leader Ajendra Ajay said the panel had been flooded with suggestions from the public, demanding legislation on the lines of the land law in force in Himachal Pradesh.

“A Himachal Pradesh-type law is needed to prevent the land in hill areas [from being purchased by outsiders]. There has been massive buying of agricultural land by non-agriculturist outsiders. This must be stopped. Committee members are unanimous that land-buying in hill areas must stop,” he said.

Ajay, however, claimed the purchase of land in Uttarakhand’s plains will be exempt from the new land law. “We are geographically different from Himachal Pradesh. We have plains where industrial development is needed. Although the committee is still in the process of finalising the report, there could be separate provisions for hills and plains,” he added.

The demand for a Himachal-like land law was also raised by a number of Congress leaders ahead of the 2022 assembly elections. Opposition leaders had pledged to bring in a law to restrict non-domiciles from purchasing land in the state if voted to power.

BJP’s Ajendra Ajay had written to CM Pushkar Singh Dhami last year, stating that the purchase of agricultural land by non-domiciles had led to “demographic changes” in the state. The Dhami government, in response to the letter, directed district magistrates to present details of the alleged “demographic changes”.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)


Also Read: ‘Ban non-Hindus from Char Dham sites’: Seer who spoke at Haridwar Dharma Sansad writes to Dhami


 

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