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Relief be given to small farmers: MLAs

Shimla: Cutting across party lines, the ruling Congress and opposition BJP today joined hands in asking the state government to frame a policy to grant relief to the farmers, who were facing evictions and criminal cases for illegal encroachments on forest lands.

The issue was raised by Mohinder Singh (BJP) immediately after the House assembled but Speaker B Butail rejected the plea of opposition members for immediate discussion and later the matter was discussed under Rule 63.

Speaker maintained that he had rejected the motion as matter was sub-judice but Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal insisted that discussion can be held in the House and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also agreed with him.

Mohinder Singh said that some policy should be framed to protect the interests of small orchardists, who had encroached land upto 10 Bighas so save them from eviction from forest land as per the high Court orders.

The chief minister said he fully supports the demand for framing a policy to regularise the encroachments of small orchardists and made his government’s intentions clear that it was for framing a policy and said that courts should not come in the way of efforts of the government to provide relief to concerned farmers.

“Personally, I do not agree with the judgement of the court directing for removal of encroachments on the forest land. The courts should do their own job and the government will work within its own domain,” he asserted.

“I do not want any confrontation with the judiciary and the government would approach the High Court soon and plead for allowing the government to frame a policy for providing relief to farmers who have made small encroachments,” he added.

Earlier, raising the issue, Dhumal asked as to why the government was acting in a “pick and choose” manner and targeting only small growers and axing the fruit trees standing on encroached land.

Rather, the government should use the axe against the big encroachers first and remove the encroachments on forest lands.