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
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