June 26, 2021 9:22:34 am
With the Supreme Court making it clear that “encroachments on forest land”, consisting around 6,500 residential constructions, in the Aravallis in Faridabad’s Khori Gaon basti has to go, the spotlight is now back on 60 farmhouses in the same forest area that continue to enjoy basic amenities and electricity connection from Haryana government.
It has been alleged that the only distinction between the two cases is that the Khori Gaon basti is an illegal construction on “forest land”, while the farmhouses have come up on “privately held common land (owned by co-sharers)” but in the same forest area falling withing the municipal limits of Faridabad and Gurugram.
The issue has been flagged by Haryana’s Principal Secretary (Archives, Archaeology and Museums), Ashok Khemka who has sought stern action against the farmhouse owners on the same pattern as is being done to evict nearly 1 lakh people in Khori Gaon basti.
“There are illegal farmhouses in the forest areas of the Aravallis located in Faridabad and Gurugram districts. As per a reply of the Forest Minister to started question no. 119 on February 27, 2020, a total of 60 illegal farm houses were constructed in the Aravalli areas (50 in Faridabad and 10 in Gurugram) between 2000 and 2020,” Khemka has written in a letter to Minister of State (Forests) Anoop Dhanak.
The IAS officer, in his letter pointed out that the area in question is notified under Section 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act. “The farm houses have been given electricity connections by the DHBVN and do not have permissions under the FC Act or Controlled Area Act,” Khemka said, adding that “to comply with the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, all such illegal farmhouses may also be demolished”.
Stating that as per media reports, land mafia sold public land in Khori Gaon to the encroachers who are now ordered to be evicted, Khemka said, “Unless action is also taken against the land mafia, public encroachments will continue to be a thriving business”.
“The Supreme Court has rejected plea of rehabilitating illegal encroachments of public land at public expense. Hence, the rehabilitation of illegal encroachers of ASI protected sites at Thehar Mound, Sirsa; Rakhigarhi and Prithvi Raj Fort, Hansi needs a relook and all such encroachers may be removed from public land without rewarding them for the encroachment,” he further said in his letter.
On apex court order directing the removal of encroachments in Khori Gaon basti, Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, had,said, “Supreme Court’s orders will be duly implemented and eviction will be conducted as per the orders. Discussions are being held within the government on the rehabilitation plan of those who will be evicted”.
Under the Right to Information Act, Khemka, in February 2020, had sought details and names of owners who occupy the said 60 farmhouses in Aravallis. However, he was only supplied the information about owners’ names in May this year.
According to the information supplied to the officer, several of the farmhouse owners have already been issued notices for violation of PLPA’s Section 4 and 5, while there are several others who are contesting cases in the courts against the notices issued to them by the government departments.
On June 7, Supreme Court had reiterated its earlier orders of February and April, 2020 to evict Khori Gaon basti on the Delhi-Haryana border, falling within the Faridabad Municipal Corporation’s jurisdiction. Terming it “an encroachment” on forest land, Supreme Court had allowed the civic body to evict the encroachers. There are approximately 6,500 homes that are constructed as part of the encroachment on the forest land.
However, on the other hand, the farmhouses that occupy hundreds of acres of land in the same Aravallis forest area continue to enjoy basic amenities.
During the Assembly session in February 2020, Forest Minister Kanwar Pal, while replying to the question raised by Badhkhal MLA Seema Trikha, had disclosed that there were 60 illegal farmhouses in Aravallis forest. However, despite the MLA seeking names of the owners, the names were not disclosed.
Replying to Khemka’s queries under RTI, the forest department, while giving the names of owners of the farmhouses (majority between 2 to 18.5 acres of land area), also mentioned that the “actual and real ownership” could only be verified from the revenue records.
A similar issue had earlier erupted in Sirsa when government evicted hundreds of families from the Thehar mound, a protected site. A large number of families who had encroached upon the land were subsequently rehabilitated and the government incurred cost of crores of rupees. It was also found that several encroachers were duped of their money by land mafia who even sold them chunks of the protected mound’s land, on the basis of fake documents.
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