25,000 acres of forest land encroached upon in Uttarakhand

Mosques, Mazars (tombs of Muslim saints), houses etc. constructed on the land !

Dehradun (Uttarakhand) – 25,000 acres of forest land in the Uttarakhand State has been encroached upon. Mosques, Mazars and houses have been constructed on this land. The news has been published in the ‘Panchajanya’ weekly. Chief Minister of the State Pushkar Singh Dhami stated that, ‘A panel will be constituted in this matter and the encroachments will be earmarked’.

1. The Chief Minister Dhami has directed Minister of Forest, Subodh Uniyal, to collect information on encroachments, after the matter came into light. As per the available information, encroachments happened as 80% of ‘Van Panchayats’ from the forest area have unclear boundaries. There are 11,336 ‘Van Panchayats’ in 11 Districts of the State. They have a total land area of more than 5,499 square km. 95% of the them from Garhwal District and 80% of them from Kumaon District have not been surveyed for fixing the boundaries. Most encroachment has happened in these two Districts.

2. Most of the encroachers are from outside the State. They have constructed temporary houses. Most of them are Muslims. As on today, the Forest Department has not taken any action against them.

3. The Forest Department stated that the ‘Van Panchayats’ have not claimed these lands legally. Some others say that this responsibility lies with the Revenue Department.

4. Minister of Forest Subodh Uniyal stated that, ‘The responsibility of fixing the boundaries of ‘Van Panchayats’ lies with the Revenue Department. We have conducted 3 meetings with the Collectors of all the districts. We expected that the Revenue Department, after fixing the boundaries, would transfer the land to the Forest Department. Encroachments can be investigated and action can be taken after that. The decision on this matter will be taken in the next cabinet meeting.

Editorial viewpoint

Were the Forest Department and the Government sleeping when encroachment was happening on such a huge land mass ? Nowhere else in the world, encroachment of this magnitude can happen on the Government’s land. This is shameful for the Government !