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Karnataka: Forest officials blame revenue department for facilitating ‘land grab’

The officials said that forest land has been repeatedly encroached upon owing to the ‘illegal’ grant of such land to private parties by the revenue department.

Written by Aksheev Thakur | Bengaluru |
Updated: February 15, 2022 6:11:47 pm
KarnatakaOfficials added that the revenue department had converted 445 acres of forest land into revenue land in 2014. (Representational image)

Officials from the forest department on Tuesday said that a villa has been built over five acres of forest land at Gulakmale village in Bengaluru South taluk without their permission. The villa is reportedly located at a crucial spot on the elephant corridor.

The officials also said that forest land has been repeatedly encroached upon owing to the ‘illegal’ grant of such land to private parties by the revenue department. They added that the revenue department had converted 445 acres of forest land into revenue land in 2014.

A senior officer from the Karnataka Forest Department said that they had first flagged the issue to the revenue department in 2018 and had also sent repeated reminders but there has been no change of the ground situation.

“There have been repeated incidents of the revenue department granting forest land to land grabbers. Even the forest department just stops at filing cases of encroachments but desists from pursuing them strongly,” the official said.

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The official correspondence letters between the forest department and the revenue department accessed by revealed that in 2018, the then Deputy Conservator of Forest (Bengaluru Urban district) Dipika Bajpai had apprised the revenue department that areas falling under the ambit of the forest department were granted to individuals by the latter.

“An extent of 445 acre of C & D class land in Survey number 35 & 36 of Gulakmale village, Uttarahalli Hobli, Bangalore South Taluk was transferred to Karnataka Forest Department for afforestation purpose, way back in 1994. This land was afforested under various schemes of plantation by the Forest Department from time to time, whereby government funds and resources were spent in protection and conservation of the said land. Over the years, these C & D lands have now transformed into natural forests because of the efforts of the Karnataka Forest Department. The said lands abut Bhootanahalli Minor Forest in Anekal Taluk and are contiguous to Bannerghatta National Park, forming an important stopover for the elephants during their seasonal migrations from Bannerghatta to Savandurga forests and vice versa,” the letter read.

“However, lands under the ownership of Karnataka Forest Department have been granted with impunity to many individuals by the revenue officials and after 2014-15, names of the illegal grantees have begun to get reflected in column 9 of the RTC (records of rights, tenancy and crops),” it further added.

The forest department pointed out in the correspondence that this “opened doors to mass-level corruption by granting away precious government land to individuals based on dubious claims and false records.”

“Based on this order, large-scale grants have been made, which is evident in the recent RTC copy where the forest department finds no mention and land has been given away to more than 25 individuals. These issues have been communicated from this office to the Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore Urban District. But it has found no hearing whatsoever and letters from even officers of the rank of Deputy Conservator of Forests are being destined to gather dust in government files,” the letter further read.

Forest officials confirmed that during several meetings at the senior-most level, it has been reiterated by the forest department that because of wrongful entries in the RTC, forest lands are being lost.

The forest department has pointed out that more than 2,000 to 3,000 individuals had in 2018 tried to grab land at Survey no 35 of Gulakmale village. Although the forest department requested the joint director of land records to demarcate the boundaries of Survey number 35 and 36 of Gulakmale village, there has been no progress.

Recalling the details of the case, former chief wildlife warden (Karnataka), BJ Hosmath, said, “This is a tragedy. As I reliably learnt that this case was discussed at the additional chief secretary level. The revenue department refused to undo this and instead issued a circular that they will ask for the opinion of the forest department before granting such land in future.”

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