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STATE LANDS DEVOTED TO THE EXTENSION OF CULTIVATION

776 –A.- Early policy as regards leases of waist lands. Prior to 1848 , the question of the utilization of waste lands for the extension of cultivation was not of much importance . An  attempt at colonization was made in Sirsa; in Fazilka a number of new  estates were carved out of the waste and leased; in Karnal also a number of small estates were formed out of  the waste and the abandoned lands which were leased  to speculators or zamindars. Most of these lessess later acquired proprietary rights, while many tenants of old standing were given occupancy rights.

After the annexation of the Punjab , however, vast areas of uncultivated land to which no one had any claim came into the possession of the State. In order to encourage the breaking up of this waste lots were given out on lease on easy terms. On fulfillment of the  terms of the lease as regards the bringing of the land under cultivation ownership would be conceded free of charge or on the payment of very moderate sum. In 1850 revised lease rules were issued under which all lands commanded by a canal were to be leased out in 100 acre plots to all those who undertook to bring them under cultivation; it was laid down that if the conditions were fulfilled the lessee would be charged and then a gradually increasing rent from Rs. 15 to Rs. 75 per annum for eight years, after which the plots would be liable to assessment at the usual rates. ( These rates were exclusive of canal water-rate that might be imposed.) If cultivation were neglected forfeiture of the lease was to be insisted on . For lands not likely to be commanded by a canal in the near future district officers were allowed to accepted such  offers  as might be made but never on lower terms than those given above. (See Board of Administration circular No. 40, dated 29th June 1850.)

777.  Sale rules of 1863 and 1865.  The policy of allowing land-owners to redeem the land revenue and of selling public  lands free of revenue in perpetuity for a time found favour with the Government of India.(Paragraph 494 of the Settlement Manual.) In Punjab  Government notification No. 25, dated 14th Jan. 1863, rules were published  for the carrying out of this policy as regards sales. All  waste lands belonging to Government unless specially reserved might be sold by auction by the Deputy Commissioner. On receipt of an application to purchase it was is duty to call for objections or in the event of any objections presented being rejected the land was to be put up to auction at an upset price fixed by the Deputy Commissioner and sold to the highest bidder.  On payment of  the last instalment of the purchase  money the land became the property of the grantee “free for ever from all demands on account of land revenue.” But he remained liable to pay cesses. The sale conveyed  to the vendee “plenary right to all products both above the surface and below the same,” saving any exceptions specially noted. To aid in carrying out this policy of  speedily disposing of large areas an Act, No. XXIII of 1863, which is still in force , was passed to provide for the adjudication of claims to waste lands. A revised edition of the rules of 1863 was issued  with Punjab Government notification No. 635 ,dated 16th September 1865. The grantee’s right to minerals was to be “subject  to such royalty ……. as may be fixed under the rules in force.” It is fortunate that the rules of 1863 and 1865 did not remain in force long, and that little advantage was taken on their provisions. The dangerous scope of those sale rules  was soon perceived . In 1864 the previous sanction of the Financial Commissioner was required for all sales    (Financial Commissioner’s Book circular No. 16 of 1864.) and in 1866 the Government of India requested the local Government not to permit the sale  of any rakhs which were likely by their position to prove useful hereafter  for plantations, even through no timber was now to be found in them. ( Financial Commissioner’s Book circular No. 14 of 1866.)

778.  Lease rules of 1868.  The rules issued  in 1868 were the first general rules for the lease  of waste lands in the Punjab. In these rules it was laid down that the lessee would be entitled to the pre-emption of the proprietary  right  in the land at a fair  and reasonable  sum, provided the agreed to the assessment placed on the land. But in 1873 this rule was  altered, and it was laid down that if at any time, either during the  term of the lease or at  its expiration, Government resolved to sell the proprietary right in the said land, the lessee would be given the option to purchase at a reasonable price to be fixed by the Deputy Commissioner.

779.  Sale rules of 1876 and 1882 and lease rules of 1882. New sale rules were issued in 1876. They differed from the rules of 1865 in one very important  respect , for they provided that the land should be sold “subject to payment of the land revenue demand for the time being assessed thereon .” As in the rules of 1865 Government reserved a right to charge a royalty upon all minerals . ( Financial Commissioner’s Book Circular No. VI of 1877) A revised edition was issued in 1882,  and in it the title of the State to retain the ownership of all minerals was expressly asserted. ( Financial Commissioner’s circular No. 21 of 1882.)  At the same fresh lease rules were issued which differed little from the rules of 1868, except that  the rights of the State as regards “mines minerals, coal , gold- washing and quarries” were fully explained.

780.  Lease rules of 1885.  It was partly on account of the uncertainly regarding the terms of purchase in the lease rules of 1868 and 1882 that a new set of rules was issued with the approval of the Government of India in 1885, When Sir Charles Aitchison was Lieutenant- Governor. ( Revenue (General) proceeding, Nos. 3-4 of September 1885. ) Commissioner were given power to sanction leases of areas not exceeding 300 acres . Leases of larger areas had to be approved by the Financial Commissioner, and, if the area exceeded 3,000 acres, by the Lieutenant- Governor. As before the assessment was to be framed “with due regard to the revenue rates assessed  on land in the neighborhood and to the special circumstances of  the case .” But in addition to the assessment a malikana or proprietary fee amounting  to 25 per cent of the revenue  was to be paid by the lessee. The rent was therefore only 1-1/4 times  the land revenue , and it might be remitted altogether for one or more years. The term was ordinarily to be fixed so as to expire with the current settlement of the district. Minerals and the rights of Government over rivers and streams were fully reserved. The Government  had power to determine  the lease during its currency if the land was required  for public purposes on paying compensation for any improvements made. On  the expiry of the original term the lessee was entitled to claim renewal on such terms as to payment of land revenue and proprietary due or malikana as the officer renewing the lease might determine. If the lease was renewed the lessee had no claim to compensation for improvements. The conditions regarding purchase were extremely  liberal . The lessee could purchase  proprietary right  at any time  by paying five times the amount of the maximum  rent, that is to say , 6-1/4 times the land revenue. After the rules of 1885 were published the Financial Commissioner issued in striations requiring Deputy Commissioners to arrange , without needlessly harassing lessees, for the regular inspection  of lands  held on lease so as to ensure the proper fulfillment of the conditions. ( Financial Commissioner’s Circular No. 60 of 1885)

781.  Sale rules of 1885.  Revised sale rules were also issued in 1885 . Sales might be made by public auction after the publication of a notice in the gazette. The sale must not take place for three months from the date of the notice. ( Section 1 of Act XXIII of 1863). The land was to be sold subject to all existing rights of way or water and other easements and the title of Government to all minerals was to be reserved. The purchaser was bound to pay half the purchase money within three months of the date of sale, and on doing so was to be put in possession of the land. As security for the payment of the remainder in five equal yearly instalments he was to execute a deed mortgaging the land to the Government. Few sales of waste land by public auction, except in the case of the canal colonies to be presently mentioned, have taken place  in the Punjab. The sale rules of 1885 apparently ceased to be in force when the lease rules of 1897 were issued .

782.  Operation of Lease Rules of 1885 restricted. The operation of the lease rules of 1885  was soon greatly restricted . IN 1887 the Government of India expressed the view that in practice they “do not appear to protect the interests of Government , and …….. it is evident that ………. a lessee may purchase the proprietary right in waste land for a price which is far below the market value of the land.”( Government of India , Revenue and Agriculture Department letter No.432-R-19-25 dated 12th August,1887-Revenue (General), proceedings No. 9 of October 1887.) About the same time the meaning of the

783.  Lease rules of 1897.  For various reasons great delay occurred in the issue of the new rules and they were not actually published till 1897

They will be bound in appendix III(I). The principal points in  which they differ from earlier rules are :-

(a)  the limitation of the areas which may be leased.

All tracts are excluded which are embraced by any colonization scheme for lands commanded by a Government canal and all areas likely  to be so commanded. The local Government alone can made exceptions. The amount of Government land suitable for leasing is now small. Lists of such lands are to be drawn up by the Deputy Commissioner, and local Government  is to determine from time to time which of these lands shall be deemed  available for leasing.Subject to these stringent conditions the Commissioner can sanction a lease up to a limit of 75 acres if the land is not irritable from a canal and the Financial Commissioner upto a limit of 150 acres , whether  the land is irritable from a canal or not for a maximum period of 20 years in each case , provided the total area held on lease by a single lessee does not exceed 75 and 150 acres respectively. Leases of areas exceeding 150 acres must be approved by the local Government. ( See rules 1 to 3 in appendix III ).

(b)  the exaction of fuller rent.

The rent was to be calculated so as to be equivalent to the land revenue plus a proprietary due or malikana in addition.
The former is to be calculated with due regard to :-

(1)  the revenue rates assessed on similar lands at the last settlement , and
(2)  the present renting value for cultivation and grazing of similar land in adjacent estates.

In applying this canon so much of the area is to be treated as cultivated as the lessee may fairly be expected to bring under  cultivation within the term of the lease.
The proprietary due or malikana is to be 4 per cent of the market value of the land in its  waste condition , and, if that is not  ascertainable, not less than 50 per cent of the land revenue assessed.
The Financial Commissioner is given certain powers of reducing the malikana for special reasons. Initial exemptions from payment of rent may also be allowed.(See rule 10 in appendix III.)

(c)  the permanent rights which the lessee can acquire  are either :-

(1)  right of occupancy under section  8 of the Punjab Tenancy Act, or
(2)  ownership.

Different forms if instrument of lease are employed according as it is proposed to grant the one or the other.
If  a right  of occupancy is acquirable it can be  claimed after the lessee had been in occupation for five years, if meanwhile he has fulfilled all the conditions. At the end of the term of the lease  the rent is fixed at the land revenue with an addition of 75 per cent, as malikana.
Where  the lease gives the lessee the option of obtaining ownership he may do so at any time during the currency of the lease. (Rules 18,19 and 21 ibid.)

(d)  the price charged for the land is the full market value.

The local Government can reduce the amount for special reasons. ( Rule 19(iii) ibid )

784.  Leases for a single harvest- The 24th of the rules exempts from their operation leases for a single harvest. The practice of giving such licenses for temporary cultivation in respect of lands which, being low lying received local drainage and therefore could in good seasons be cultivated without irrigation , used to be common  in some of the south –western district. The spread of canal irrigation has made the matter one of the small importance , and rendered it necessary to impose restrictions on the practice. The instructions at present in force will be found in appendix III (2).

785.  Other alienations of State lands- So far we have been dealing with sales and leases of waste land owned by the state made on the authority of rules issued with the sanction of the Government of India( “Under Government of India circular letter, Revenue and Agricultural Department , No. 3-471-1, dated 19th  November, 1909, the local Government is now authorized to make amendments in details without previous reference to the Government of India.”). But the State may have acquired by escheat or otherwise cultivated land or town  sites, the ownership of which it is prepared to transfer on various terms to public bodies or private individuals . Occasions may also arise for the grant of waste lands on conditions more favorable  than those embodies in the lease rules. A classification  of the transfers referees to above  and directions as to the sanction required in each description  of case are contained in the resolutions of the Government of India reproduced  in appendix IV.

Nazul property, within the limits of municipality, notified area, or small town not being  a colony town, means land and buildings of all kind which belong to Government  and, are not in departmental charge. Nazul property, outside the limits of a municipality, no tidied areas, or small town means all immovable property other than agricultural land and wells and tanks used primarily for agricultural purposes , which belongs to Government and is not in departmental charge.

(See paragraph 2 of Punjab government consolidated circular No. 27). The instructions issued by the Government of India as to the alienation of town sites will be found in appendix IV.

786.  Construction of private canals by leases- During the first thirty five years after annexation the policy described in this chapter fairly successful. To its complete success Nature has set up obstacles of a formidable kind. Where the State owns most waste and the rainfall is usually too scanty to allow of dry cultivation except  of very limited  extent and most  precarious character, and at the same time the water level is too deep to make well sinking easy or well working profitable. Indeed in the south –west  of the province the rainfall is so light and so capricious that wells unaided by river flood or canal water are of little use.  Some lesses were therefore encouraged to dig private canals to irrigate their grants and a good deal was done to extend cultivation in this way, especially in the Shahpur District. The canal owners  used the water  largely to irrigate their own lands, but gave any  they could spare to their neighbours ,charging a water rate usually in the form of a share of the produce. The people of the tahsils of  Ferozepore bordering on the Sutlej under the energetic guidance of their Deputy Commissioner , Major Grey, constructed many years ago a number of small zamindari canals to water their proprietary lands. It was inevitable that difficult questions should arise in connection with private canals, and it was evident that the elaborate provisions of the Northern Indian Canal and Drainage Act,  VIII of 1873, were not well to many smaller irrigation works whether private or not which were managed or controlled by Government . “The owner of a private canal is not, like the owner of an irrigation well , independent of relations with all persons outside the ring – fence of his own property . Even when the canal is constructed solely to irrigate the owners’ land the interest of the State are involved in the detraction of water from the river or natural stream, and it is rarely the case that the supply channel can be constructed without its bed passing through land belonging to other persons. When as is more commonly the case, irrigation is supplied not only to the canal –owners’ lands, but also to whatever area , however owned, may be commanded by the available supply, relations arise which, in the interest of canal owners and irrigators and of peace and good Government generally , require to be controlled and regulated.” ( Statement of objects and Reasons attached to Bill No. 3 of 1903)   Moreover it was possible that a private individual  having secured a monopoly of the water –supply might charge others so high a price for  it as to interfere  with the legitimate claims of Government to land revenue. These considerations led to the passing of the Punjab Minor Canals Act, No. III of 1905.

787.  Punjab Minor Canals Act, III of 1905- In that Act a very wide  definition of “canal” is given . (Section 3(ii) . A number of irrigation works are included in the two schedules appended to the rules in volume II of the Punjab Land Administration Acts and  It is to these works that it in the first instance applies. Schedule I is primarily intended for small irrigation works owned in whole or in part by Government or managed by Government Officers or by any local authority while schedule II is intended to include canals , which are owned  and managed by private individuals. ( Proviso to section 2) The local Government has power to make additions to the schedules , or to transfer a canal from one schedule to another or exclude it from both , by notifications . ( Section2(2). Government may notify “any natural canal , lake or other collection of water.” Thereafter no one can without its permission construct a canal to draw water from that source of supply.(Section 4,5 and 7).The 6th section States the procedure to be followed  by a Deputy Commissioner who thinks a canal should be constructed from such a source. The levy  of “water dues” by which term is indicated what was formerly called royalty, by Government from canal – owners on account of use of water is legalized and regulated by section 8. Chapter III of the Act gives the Collector the powers necessary  for the management of canals included in schedule I, and provides for the levy of water-rates. Both water dues and water –rates to be collected by the officers of Government are recoverable as if they were arrears of land revenue. (Sections  29-32 and 68.)The system of providing for yearly clearances by labour contribution (cher) is legalized in certain cases. ( Sections 26 and 27 see paragraph 449 of Settlement Manual)  Power is given to draw up a record for a canal showing inter alia the custom or rule  of irrigation, and the rights to water or to erect mills(Section 28) Rights in or over any canal may be extinguished by the local Government on payment of compensation if the exercise of them “ is prejudicial to the interests of  other irrigators or to the good management, improvement , or extension of the canal.” (Section 11) Chapter IV applies to canals included in schedule II. The local Government is given power to fix the limits of irrigation and the amount of the rate, and  to regulate  the supply and distribution of the water to and from a canal and to order the preparation of  a record of rights. (Section 35 and 39) The Collector may appoint a manager in certain cases  (Section 34) and the local Government may assume control with the canal-owner’s consent, and in case of grave mismanagement  or willful  and continuos  breach of order passed under section 39 , without it . If  control is taken against the will of the owner he can require the Government to acquire the canal (Sections 36 and 37). The local Government can undertake the collections  of water –rates  livable on a private canal , if requested to do so by the owners. ( Section 40). Chapter V applies to canals of both classes. It gives the Collector the necessary powers.

(a)  to ensure that canals and the works connected with them are maintained in good working order and protected from injury; (Sections 52-7)
(b)  to settle disputes among the shareholders(Section 42-3)

It gives power to regulate the construction of mills, (Section 58) and the flow of the water in rivers, creeks, natural  channels,or lines of natural drainage, and for the removal therefrom of obstructions. (Sections 49-51) It enables Government to acquire any private canal when it appears expedient in the public interest to do so. ( Section 45-8. ) The jurisdiction of the  civil court is excluded, (Section 60) and light penalties are provided for certain offences under the Act.(section 71) Cases relating to such offences must be tried by magistrates of the 1st or 2nd class.

788.  Canal colonization schemes- The efforts described in the preceding  paragraphs to extend cultivation  pale into insignificance before the results of the great schemes of irrigation which have been carried out in the last forty years. These will be found fully described in the Punjab Colony Manual, Volume I.

Hon'ble Revenue Minister

Hon'ble Minister-In-Charge
Shri. Gurpreet Singh Kangar

 


 

Special Chief Secretary, Department of Revenue, Rehabilitation and Disaster Mangement
Shri. Karan Bir Singh Sidhu, IAS

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