Lured by the Haryana government into giving away village common land on the plea that Bollywood filmmaker Subhash Ghai's film school project would bring development to the area, residents of Badhsa village in Jhajjar district are rejoicing after the Punjab and Haryana high court nullified the allotment on the ground it was fraudulent.
"I was fully confident that the court will quash the allotment of land as it was made by violating the law. We all are so happy now," said Nafe Singh, a retired teacher who had filed the petition against allotment of the land. The village is about 30 km from the Delhi border.
"This was the first time when costly panchayat land was directly sold to an individual for establishing a business unit. Otherwise, the state government used to only acquire land for development projects. Most of the villagers learnt about allotment of the land to Subhash Ghai when construction of the fencing started," a visibly happy Nafe Singh told IANS.
"It is really a matter of happiness for me and other villagers that I succeeded in protecting the precious land of the village," he added.
A division bench consisting of acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain last week ordered Ghai to return the 20-acre plot to the village council, saying giving it to the filmmaker would not serve any public purpose.
"The villagers were wondering how the government could hand over the panchayat's land to an individual for personal use. Subhash Ghai wished to grab the costly land of the village with help of the state government for his personal benefit. We are very happy and also grateful to the high court for giving us justice," Samer Singh, an elderly resident of the village, told IANS.
Jai Bhagwan, another villager, said Subhash Ghai had to pay the price for his "blunder" as he never was able to win the faith of the villagers after the land was alloted.
Youth in the village are particularly upset that the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government hoodwinked the village council into giving away the land.
"The state government cannot wash its hands off this wrongful act as it was under its pressure that the village panchayat gave the nod for the allotment of the land," village youth Krishan Pal said.
Accusing the state government of concealing the motive behind Ghai getting the land, Navin Kumar, another villager, said: "The state government never disclosed in what manner the institute would benefit the village and its residents."
Ghai had visited Badhsa village twice after the land was alloted. Though he had met the village council he did not disclose how the villagers would benefit from setting up of a film institute, the villagers said.
The court has also told the village council to return the over Rs.8 crore that it took from Ghai's Mukta Arts company in October 2010. Ghai had bought the land from the council after it passed a resolution to give him the village common land.