*Govt to take decade to remove identified encroachments
JAMMU, Jan 21: Not only politicians and other influential people even Government employees are indulging in encroachment on the forest land in the length and breadth of Jammu and Kashmir thereby establishing that the existing anti-encroachment mechanism of the Forest Department is not leaving much impact on the ground and there is no fear of law among the land-grabbers. Moreover, the present pace of anti-encroachment drive indicates that Govern-ment may take not less than one decade to take back the identified land from the encroachers.
As per the official data of the Forest Department, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR, a total of 12919.01 hectares of forest land has been encroached as on April 1, 2015 in both the divisions of the State. Of this, 9274.12 hectares of forest land has been encroached in Jammu region and 3644.89 hectares in Kashmir region.
Against this, a total of 888.92 hectares of land was evicted during the year 2015-16, which includes 648.88 hectares in Jammu region and 240.04 hectares in Kashmir valley. Similarly, during 2016-17, a total of 1612.31 hectares of forest land was evicted in the State which includes 1577.72 hectares in Jammu region and only 34.59 hectares in Kashmir valley.
In addition, 2977.35 hectares of fresh encroachments in forest land were got evicted in the State including 205.62 hectares from Jammu Forest Division till December 31, 2016. In the Kashmir valley, the anti-encroachment drive received set-back due to five months long unrest.
“However, the present pace of anti-encroachment drive clearly establishes that the Forest Department may take not less than one decade to take back entire identified encroached land from the encroachers”, sources remarked.
As far as encroachments by the politicians are concerned, the Forest Department document reveals that a former Minister has encroached 26.2 kanals of forest land in Shopian while as sitting BJP Minister has encroached a chunk of land in Sunjwan area of Jammu besides there are a number of hoteliers who have also encroached huge chunk of forest land in different tourist resorts of Jammu and Kashmir.
About action initiated against these politicians, the Forest Department said that final eviction notice has been given to former Minister after the case was disposed off by the J&K Special Tribunal. As far as sitting Minister is concerned, the department said that Deputy Commissioner Jammu has been asked to ascertain the final position with respect to involvement of forest land in view of different views of Forest and Revenue Departments.
Establishing that there is no fear of law, the document further reveals that even large number of Government employees have also encroached forest land in different parts of the State. “It is also an indication that prevailing anti-encroachment measures have failed to act as deterrent against the encroachments”, sources pointed out.
Two brothers Ghulam Mohd Mir and Manzoor Ahmed Mir, Forester and Helper in the Forest Department have encroached 20 kanals and four marlas of forest land in JV Division of Kashmir valley. Similarly, Ishtiyak Ahmed, an employee in the Health Department has encroached seven kanals of forest land and Mohd Aslam, Junior Engineer in Public Works Department has encroached one kanal of forest land at Sunjwan near Jammu city.
The document further reveals that two Government servants of the rank of Deputy Commissioner and Additional Secretary have also constructed houses on the forest land and the case is presently sub-judice in the Supreme Court.
In Mahore Division, seven Government servants have encroached forest land. They are Shakeel Hussain (Junior Assistant), Abdul Hamid (Medical Assistant), Sabdir Ali (Medical Assistant), Ali Mohammad (Lab Assistant), Nawab Din and Manzoor Ahmed (both Teachers) and Mushtaq Ahmed (Medical Assistant).
In Basohli Division, Waheed Khan (Forest Guard) while as in Billawar Division Aziz Din (Teacher) have encroached forest land. Forty four Government servants have also encroached huge chunk of forest land in Batote Division.
They are Bansi Lal (an employee of Power Development Corporation), Mohd Iqbal Parray (an employee of J&K Bank), Ghulam Qadir (an employee of Revenue Department), Chuni Lal (an employee of Sericulture Department), Ranoo Devi (an employee of PDC), Mohd Sharief (an employee of Police Department), Hasham Din (an employee of Health Department), Abdul Qayoom (an employee of Social Forestry Department), Mushtaq (an employee of Education Department), Bashir Ahmed (an employee of State Forest Corporation), Firdous Ahmed and Mohd Iqbal (both of Education Department), Mohd Mushtaq (an employee of Horticulture Department), Abdul Hamid (an Army jawan), Abdul Wahid (an employee of Agriculture Department), Mohd Yaseen (an employee of Police Department), Mohd Mashqoor, Farooq Ahmed and Mohd Arshad (employees of Education Depar-tment), Kabir (Army jawan), Shamim Akhtar, Ashraf Jaral, Mohd Ashraf Katoch, Abdul Majid, Mohd Yaqoob Khan and Azmatullah Khan (all employees of Police Department), Abdul Majid (an employee of Education Department), Mohd Latief and Mohd Sharief (employees of J&K Bank), Shabir Ahmed (an employee of Rural Development Department), Ayaz Ahmad (an employee of Education Depart-ment), Abdul Wahid (an employee of Handloom Department), Bashir Ahmed, Zakir Hussain, Atta Mohd, Mohd Ashraf, Reyaz Ahmed and Bashir Ahmed (all of Police Department), Abdul Gani (an employee of Fire Services Department), Mujeeb-ul-Rehman and Bashir Ahmed (emp-loyees of Education Department) and Muzafar Ali (BSF Jawan).
However, the document does not contain information about action initiated against such a large number of employees and whether they have been placed under suspension for indulging in unlawful activities.