Dumka, Jan. 3: The Deoghar district administration's move last month to demolish seven houses allegedly built on land that had been acquired by the state for a tourism complex in Nandan Pahar has invited criticism from lawyers and residents.
On December 18, a team of officials led by sub-divisional officer (civil) Uma Shankar Singh had evicted the occupants of the seven houses that stood on a five-acre plot acquired for a shilp gram (artistes' village), an initiative of the tourism department.
Terming the role of the district administration as arbitrary, senior advocate and member of the state bar council Gopeswar Prasad Jha told The Telegraph that under no circumstances the residential houses could be demolished or its occupants evicted.
"Even if the houses were built on jamabandi (non-transferrable) land, the state government was liable to pay compensation against acquired land," Jha said.
Referring to provisions of the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act, he said there must be an inquiry to ascertain the status of the houses built on the disputed land.
The SDO had said that the occupants of the seven houses had been served notices in 2004-05 and on many occasions later based on a high court standing order allowing the government to evict illegal encroachments.
On the other hand, the occupants of the demolished houses had claimed that they had purchased the plots on the basis of dan patras (donation letters to new occupants) issued by the raiyats in 2002-03, before the land was claimed by the government.
However, Jha pointed out that the land acquisition law too has provisions for providing compensation to raiyats and occupants of houses on jamabandi land.
As no compensation was paid to the occupants of the demolished houses, residents too have voiced their reservations about the manner in which the administration went about the task.
"It is the obligation of the state to provide basic facilities, including residential, to the citizens. But by demolishing the houses, the administration has only acted against the concept of the welfare state," said Nitu Gupta, a resident of Hathi Pahar locality.
Under the SPT Act, ownership of land is not transferrable. But the practice of dan patras has allowed continued transfer of property to new owners in Santhal Pargana.
The Deoghar administration had acquired the land in 2003-04 to set up buildings for the shilp gram in two acres.