Taking advantage of ongoing unrest in Kashmir and notwithstanding chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's assurance that no concrete structure would be allowed in eco-sensitive Tosamaidan which army vacated in 2014, unscrupulous people are erecting illegal structures in the meadow in central Kashmir's district Budgam.
During past three weeks people from adjusting villages of Tosamaidan have raised at least a dozen concrete kothas or dhoks in Tosamaidan meadow while as several others have disfigured the vast grazing land of the area. They added that scores of structures are presently coming up.
Miscreants are raising these kothas in view of the place being a potential tourist spot.
"These shameless persons think that they would construct structures and claim having possession of that piece of land," said Rashid, a local, adding, "Gradually, they would pay bribes and use influence to convert these small structures in hotels in future."
The transportation of construction material is also being carried out in a broad day light without any fear and interference from authorities.
"Even some persons have divided the meadow land into small plots and are in effort to construct boundary walls around them, giving false impression that it is their private land under their legal possession," said a group of locals.
Most of the kothas are being constructed by so called shepherds. "These shepherds have erected small kothas and are now in an effort to extend their encroachment further," said eye witnesses.
Reports about encroachment of forest land were also received from various compartments including Bramwar and Nilnag forests.
Reports of concrete huts coming up, smuggling and mass deforestation were received from compartment S2 of Raiyar and Kachwari forests of Raithan range.
"In brass village of Arizal some people are constructing residential and commercial structures on forest land," reports said.
While admitting the facts, DFO Budgam Waseem Farooq Mir, said: "Our men swung into action as we received complaints of encroachment. There were 14 kothas erected in Tosamaidan which were demolished by our field staff in a three-day-long anti-encroachment drive besides two kothas were demolished at Padhastar area of Doodhganga range."
"We have seized 20 cubic ft of timber and confiscated two horses during past few weeks and teams of field staff have been mobilized in all the forest ranges of the district to check for more encroachments," he added.
However, Forest Minister Lal Singh denied all reports, saying, "This is all non-sense. No illegal structures are coming up. There is no encroachment anywhere in forest land."
When asked that officials admit and inform about demolishing illegal structures, he said: "They are talking non-sense."
He dropped the call and didn't pick it again for elaboration of his comments.