Lack of coordination, vested interests playing spoilsport
JAMMU, Nov 4: Adopting contemptuous attitude towards the State High Court, the Government agencies have failed to remove majority of the encroachments along the banks of River Tawi from Nagrota to Phallian Mandal even after identifying the same and issuing notices to the encroachers. Astonishingly, all the illegal structures have been given legal power and water connections by the concerned departments of the Government thereby exposing the soft-corner towards the violators of the law.
The issue of large scale encroachments along the banks of River Tawi was highlighted before the State High Court through Public Interest Litigations (PILs) titled Advocate Diwakar Sharma Versus State and Ashish Sharma Versus State etc and keeping in view the intensity of the menace the High Court issued numerous directions to all the concerned agencies of the State for appropriate action that too in a time bound manner.
In the PIL filed by Advocate Diwakar Sharma, a Division Bench of the State High Court comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice B S Walia had in the month of August last year issued directions for mapping of entire land along the banks of sacred river right from Nagrota to Phallian Mandal and identification of encroachers for initiating stern action including demolition of unauthorized constructions.
These directions were issued after the highest court of the State noticed that the concerned Government agencies were completely unaware of the extent of encroachments on the banks of River Tawi. The DB had even noticed confusion vis-à-vis which department should have controlled and regulated the land along the banks.
After being reprimanded by the High Court, the then Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Dr Pawan Kotwal vide Order No.601/RA/546-52 dated August 20, 2016 constituted a multi-department committee to identify and map the entire land along the banks of River Tawi right from Nagrota to Phallian Mandal. The committee was even directed to furnish the list of encroachers to the High Court for necessary orders.
The multi-department committee identified nearly 800 encroachments including those committed by some Government departments on both banks of River Tawi from Nagrota to Phallian Mandal and furnished the list to the High Court.
In the month of November last year, a Division Bench of the High Court comprising the then Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Tashi Rabstan directed the State to remove all the identified illegal structures along the banks of River Tawi in a time bound manner and submit Action Taken Report.
“All kind of constructions either being carried out by the Government or by any individual shall be immediately stopped…..the illegal constructions be removed and those which are authorized one shall be compensated and rehabilitated at some other place as has been done in case of Dal Lake dwellers”, read the order of the then Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar.
“One year has lapsed since the landmark directions of the highest court of the State but majority of the encroachments have remained intact because of willful disobedience to the directives”, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “the level of compliance of the directives is less than 10% as none of the concerned agency—be it Revenue, Police, Irrigation and Flood Control etc have shown required seriousness till date”.
Following the directions of the High Court, the administration had reportedly issued notices to the encroachers under the provisions of Land Revenue Act but there was no response from any of the violators within the specified time-frame. “Despite this, no action has been taken till date”, sources informed.
“What to talk of implementing the directives of the High Court in letter and spirit, there are numerous instances which clearly establish that certain Government officers are still turning blind eye towards fresh encroachments”, sources said, adding “the most shocking aspect is that all the illegal structures have been given legal power and water connections by the concerned departments and even these connections have not been snapped till date”.
It is pertinent to mention here that a senior officer of the Jammu district administration had also pointed out this aspect in an official communication addressed to several senior officers but still no action has been taken thereby exposing the soft-corner towards the encroachers.
“Recently it was conveyed to the High Court by Jammu district administration that enough focus is being laid on removal of encroachments from High Flood Level (HFL) zone of River Tawi but the fact is that this exercise is also confined to few areas”, sources further said while disclosing that wherever encroachments have been removed the concerned departments have yet not formally taken possession of the land thereby rendering the same vulnerable to fresh encroachments.
Stating that practice of passing buck on each other has yet not come to an end, sources said, “actually lack of coordination and vested interests are creating obstacles in implementing directions of the High Court in letter and spirit”, adding “how an illegal structure can come up on the land belonging to a particular department without being noticed remains a million dollar question”.