Now, govt names 60,000 forestland ‘encroachers’ in J&K

Representational Photo
Representational Photo

After naming highly influential persons benefited from the scrapped Roshni scheme, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has now come up with a list of over 60,000 persons who have allegedly grabbed forestland in the Union Territory.

The department on its official website has issued the list of alleged forestland encroachers in 32 forest divisions — 12 falling in Kashmir and 20 in Jammu region.

As per the officials, an estimated 2.96 lakh kanals of forestland (which is equivalent to 15,000 hectares) in the length and breadth of the Union Territory of J&K has been encroached.

According to 32 lists uploaded on official website of forest department, the highest area of forestland encroached upon is in Jammu region's Ramban forest division (2,106 hectares), followed by Rajouri division (1,973.9 hectares), Poonch (1,472 hectares) and Shopian (1,026.77 hectares), which is in Kashmir division.

As per the lists, in Anantnag forest division, 6583 encroachment cases involving 1496 hectares of land have been reported. The detail regarding other forest divisions is as under: Awantipora forest division, 604 encroachers (cases), 145 hectares; Bandipora forest division, 1062 cases, 158 hectares;  Basohli forest division, 938 cases, 187 hectares; Batote forest division, 668 cases, 33.40 hectares; Bhaderwah forest division, 949 cases, 192 hectares; Bilawar forest division, 541 cases, 237 hectares; Doda forest division, 899 cases, 232 hectares; Jammu forest division, 704 cases, 499 hectares.

As per the lists, in JV forest division 1586 cases involving 415 hectares of forestland; Kamraj forest division, 2977 hectares, 577 hectares; Kathua forest division, 104 cases, and 52.85 hectares.

The publication of the lists is a result of a PIL filed in the J&K High Court by a Jammu-based non-governmental organization, Save Animals Value Environment, in 2017.

In September, the Forest Department had filed a comprehensive report mentioning that over 64,000 persons have encroached forestland in the length and breadth of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

A Division Bench of the HC has directed that no court in the Union Territory shall take cognizance of any issue with regard to any claim pertaining to the encroachment of the forest land except the DB hearing the instant Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

Even all the government departments have been explicitly told not to make any sort of change in the record or physical status of the land identified by the Forest Department as under encroachment.

The comprehensive report, which was submitted by the Forest Department, contained forest division-wise details of encroached land and the names of the encroachers, which may include former ministers, legislators, bureaucrats or other influential persons, although names of VIPs have not been separately reflected.

In compliance with the J&K High Court order of 19 September, the administration had constituted a committee of senior administration officers to take decisions on all complaints of encroached forestland and property received by it.

In a public notice published by the administration on 29 September, the committee stated that anybody willing to file complaints could approach them.

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