WHO OWNS THE ARAVALLI HILLS?

Ownership of the Aravalli hills varies in the vil­lages of Man­gar, Kot and Band­hwadi, but buy­ing land in the hill ar­eas could be a risky propo­si­tion

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani THE VIL­LAGES Man­gar: Kot:

The Aravallis are in the news again. Ear­lier this month, the Haryana gov­ern­ment had is­sued a no­ti­fi­ca­tion t o de­lin­eate the Man­gar Bani zone in the Aravalli hills of Man­gar vil­lage and cre­ate a 500 m buf­fer as a no­con­struc­tion zone. This brings the gov­ern­ment closer to hon­our­ing its com­mit­ment to the NCRPlan­ning Board in 2014 and 2015 to pro­tect the Man­gar Bani area, as de­manded by the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists in the Gur­gaonFarid­abad-Delhi re­gion.

Man­gar Bani cov­ers about 650 acres in the Aravalli hills of Man­gar and Band­hwari vil­lages, while its 500m buf­fer en­com­passes about 950 acres across Man­gar, Band­hwari and Kot vil­lages. Land ownership rules vary in all th­ese vil­lages, and if one goes by en­vi­ron­ment and other laws, in­vest­ing in land over here is fraught with risks. It is very im­por­tant, there­fore, to un­der­stand how the Aravalli com­mon land was pri­va­tised, what its for­est sta­tus is and where con­struc­tion is al­lowed and not al­lowed.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say it is a mys­tery how vil­lage com­mon land here went to private play­ers. What used to be vil­lage com­mon land was owned in the 1960s by the pan­chayat and the ownership of the en­tire hill area was recorded as pan­chayat deh in the rev­enue records of Man­gar vil­lage. Land type was as cat­e­gorised as gair mumkin pa­har (hilly land which is not cul­tivable). Under pan­chayat ownership it was man­aged as vil­lage com­mon land d for­est (un­cul­ti­vated land used ed for graz­ing, forests) and sale was as not al­lowed. In the 1970s land nd ownership was trans­ferred from om the pan­chayat to com­mu­nity ty through a process which en­vivi­ron­men­tal­ists la­belled “du­bibi­ous” . It was recorded as Sham­lat lat deh (be­long­ing to the com­muu­nity) in the rev­enue records and nd was not al­lowed to be sold.

By the late 1970s, land owner­ership was trans­ferred to vil­lage pro­pri­etors, each get­ting land in pro­por­tion to his agri­cul­tural hold­ing in the plains. Though it was a joint un­di­vided share, the vil­lagers later started sell­ing their shares in­di­vid­u­ally to in­vestors from Delhi and else­where. In 1986, the hill was par­ti­tioned amongst the share­hold­ers, when a process of con­sol­i­da­tion of land or chak­bandi was taken up (land was pooled be­fore par­ti­tion) that led to ac­tual plot num­bers be­ing al­lot­ted and acreage of plot de­lin­eated. While con­sol­i­da­tion was ap­pli­ca­ble only to agri­cul­tural ar­eas, it was mis­used to par­ti­tion the hill, ar­eas of which had al­ready been pooled. Un­for­tu­nately, the densely forested Man­gar Bani area was also par­ti­tioned and trad­ing ownership pa­pers had started.

In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the Aravalli hills had to be pro­tected at all cost. In 2009, min­ing was banned in Gur­gaon and Farid­abad, but the is­sue of con­struc­tion is still pend­ing in the apex court. In 2012, the Jas­pal Singh judg­ment of the Supreme Court held that ownership of the vil­lage com­mon land should be re­stored to the pan­chay­ats across the coun­try. This was, how­ever, not im­ple-

Prices in th­ese ar­eas are low for a rea­son. In­di­vid­u­als can buy a share in hill land from lo­cals/vil­lagers but it is not le­gal, and is a risky propo­si­tion, es­pe­cially after the Jag­pal Singh judg­ment of 2012

Man­gar is lo­cated in Farid­abad dis­trict of Haryana. mented in true spirit.

After t he 2014 Na­tional Green Tri­bunal rul­ing that the gair mumkin pa­har could not be frag­mented and that the for­est should be iden­ti­fied, the Tri­bunal in 2016 fined a private com­pany 1 lakh for cut­ting 50 trees, and ruled that the area was deemed for­est as per SC or­ders.

Since 2014, too, the process of fi­nal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the NCZ has started after the Re­gional Land in Man­gar has been pri­va­tised and al­lo­cated, with plots iden­ti­fied and acreage de­ter­mined

Lo­cated west of Man­gar. Most of the land shared by vil­lages has been sold. A court case is pend­ing with the deputy com­mis­sioner to de­cide the ownership ti­tle sta­tus of the sham­lat hill lands of Kot vil­lage and de­ter­mine whether pri­vati­sa­tion was the right thing to do or re­con­sider restor­ing land to the pan­chayat

Plan 2021 for the NCR zoned the en­tire Aravallis of the NCR as a Nat­u­ral Con­ser­va­tion Zone (NCZ) , where the limit on con­struc­tion is 0.5% and that too for re­gional recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties through sanc­tu­ar­ies and re­gional parks.

“Thus the com­bi­na­tion of for­est laws, MoEF, SC and NGT pro­nounce­ments, and dec­la­ra­tion of the Nat­u­ral Con­ser­va­tion Zone over the en­tire Aravallis in 2005 by the NCRPB clearly show that the in­ten­tion is to con­serve the area and not to com­mer­cialise it,” says Chetan Agar­wal, an en­vi­ron­men­tal an­a­lyst.

In 2011-12 the news of a master plan led to a spike in trans­ac­tions and dou­bling of prices, but it was stayed by the MoEF. The cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of the var­i­ous ju­di­cial pro­nounce­ments and the NCZ zon­ing is that the NCZ has been sent for no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Man­gar Bani cov­ers about 650 acres in the Aravalli hills of Man­gar and Band­hwari vil­lages

Its 500 m buf­fer en­com­passes about 950 acres across Man­gar, Band­hwari and Kot vil­lages

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