Nov 01, 2012 at 10:31am IST

Himachal Pradesh polls: Land laws a key election issue

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh will go for polls on Sunday, November 4. One of the key election issues this time has been land. The state is seeing a construction boom and land prices are soaring. Vinod Sultanpuri, contesting for the Congress from Kasauli, has alleged that illegal benami land deals are rampant.

"I live in Sultanpur. In the panchayats there, 18 buildings were found benami. I don't know when, who are the people who have built those. It's the BJP government which is facilitating it," Sultanpuri said.

The issue of land has touched a raw nerve with young Himachalis. Tikender Panwar, Shimla's young deputy mayor, has alleged that a nexus is diluting the state's land laws. "The government must protect the law of the land. Section 118 of land reforms and tenancy act has to be protected. It has not only diluted it, it has become a facilitator in various transactions that have taken place. It's not just the ruling party, it's a section of bureaucracy, corporate houses and politicians," Panwar said.

In the last few years, permission was granted to at least 11 private universities to buy huge chunks of prime land across Himachal Pradesh, eight of them were in Solan alone. It is alleged that most of these universities bought land far beyond their needs and could end up becoming real estate ventures.

Some experts fear these mushrooming private universities are also a land scam. "If they don't fill the requirement then they can get the land use changed to commercial purposes," Himachal Pradesh University Professor Dr Ramesh Chauhan said.

Himachal MP and Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal's son Anurag Thakur justifies the sale of land to pvt universities. "Generation of income is through educational activities. Education is a big business, it ensures clean environment and creates employment," Anurag Thakur said.