Prime land of Forest worth crores being grabbed by Minister’s musclemen

Land mafia breaks strong fencing of Forest Herbal Eco-Park near Mahamaya Temple on National Highway in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Land mafia breaks strong fencing of Forest Herbal Eco-Park near Mahamaya Temple on National Highway in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, Mar 11:  With the Forest  land in  Bathindi, Sunjawan, Sidhra  and some other areas around Jammu turning vulnerable  on every passing day with the  land grabbing activities  of  influential ‘land mafia’ men, another major attempt has been made to grab about 2 kanal prime land worth crores belonging to  Forest department  at Bahu Herbal Eco-Pak, Mahamaya forests, located on the main Sidhra Bypass National Highway in over night operation hardly three days ago.
Displaying exceptional courage,  the land mafia men  reportedly  acting  at behest of a  PDP Minister, in an over night operation, broke about 200 feet long  strong old fencing  of Mahamaya Herbal Eco Park located on National Highway,  Jammu with the help of a JCB and stole away the long portion of  fencing as well.
They also dumped  some bricks and other material there at the site to launch construction during early morning but the Forest field staff rushed to the site  next  morning,  lodged an FIR regarding theft of iron fencing, angles and around 20 strong iron pillars from the site.
The Divisional Forest Officer  Jammu Urban  and Range Officer concerned besides Foresters and Dy Foresters  raised temporary fencing with the help of field staff  and did not allow to launch the work there to the mafia but they did not receive any police help or support from `some’ senior  officers.
Interestingly, taking sides with the land grabbers, the sources in Forest department told the Excelsior that a few officers  were called by sitting Minister from Kashmir in his office chamber,  who scolded them and asked to  maintain silence over the issue.
He also directed them to facilitate the people carrying out work there and not to expose the issue in media.  While a few officers from Forest and Revenue on behest of this Minister were indirectly supporting the land mafia men, others chose to protect Forest land without caring for the consequences  while sincerely performing their duty.
Sources said that this land measuring nearly one kanal and 18 marla situated on National Highway is valued at around Rs 3-4 crores. The land mafia men hatched a conspiracy and produced some documents claiming that that this land was allotted to them on the name of one  Lalit Slathia of  Nagrota by Jammu Development Authority during 2003.
One such attempt was earlier also made by some people to grab this piece of land during  2006-07  and  later a joint demarcation by Revenue  staff involving Tehsildar  and Naib Tehsildar Bahu and Forest  staff was done  after that  and the land falling under Compartment No. 66 Bahu Range was found  to be belonging to Forest department. Whereas,  the  Revenue/ JDA authorities claimed that this land falls under Khasra No. 338,  Moza Bahu.
After the outcome of the demarcation, the then Secretary  JDA cancelled the said allotment  of Lalit Kumar Slathia of Nagrota vice order No. JDA/Land/ VC Section/873-78 on dated 14-10-2006. But  these people again approached some key officials  and hatched a conspiracy using influence of  a Minister to encroach this land. Two times earlier also FIRs were lodged against them, but no action was taken against them, the sources maintained.
While the junior Forest  officials have reported the matter to Conservator of Forests, Jammu East, Chief Conservator of Forests Jammu and SSP Jammu and even the Deputy Commissioner but they feared that these mafia men would forcibly try to grab this piece of prime Forest Eco-Park land. The Forest officials are claiming that this allotment made by JDA on Forest land during 2003 was totally illegal and wrong and action should have  been taken against those involved in this fraud.
The sources revealed that some people from that camp,  of late approached, the Deputy Commissioner Jammu who has directed  the Revenue/ JDA  Staff and Forest officials to go for  joint demarcation of the said land. They claimed that demarcation has already been conducted  during 2006  and there was no need to repeat the entire process.
Minister for Forests and Environment Ch Lal Singh when contacted  claimed that he came to know about the matter from his officers. He said the directions were issued to field staff to re-fence the area breached by the land mafia men. He said they have been asking for joint demarcation of the land and things will be more clear after this task is performed.
When asked about scolding of some Forest officials by a Cabinet Minister from Kashmir seeking favour for land grabbers,  Ch Lal Singh said no official has reported him this matter. He said, ” We will not allow any one to encroach upon our land. No body will be allowed to enter inside Forest  land who so ever be the person.”
Lal Singh further said everybody knows about the plight of forest land in and around Jammu since long and about dubious role of some JDA and Revenue officials. He said Forest department will protect its land with full might.