The Haryana Forest and Wildlife Department appointed two Forest Settlement Officers (FSOs) on a day — August 13 — the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered the status quo on the appointment of previous FSO, M P Sharma.
When the matter came up before the High Court on Monday, Haryana AAG Deepak Balyan said, “The status quo regarding the appointment of Forest Settlement Officers as existing at the time of passing the orders on August 13 by this court shall be maintained and the notification issued subsequently shall not be given effect to without the permission of the court.”
The affidavit informing the High Court about the appointment of two new FSOs — IFS Vinod Kumar and Haryana Forest Services (HFS) officer Yashpal Jangra — was filed from the side of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Haryana, Dr Amarinder Kaur.
Kaur lauded the two new FSOs describing them well-versed in modern technology for mapping the entire forest area of Morni hills. The matter is related to around 52,000 acres of forest land in Morni Hills.
The PCCF also informed the High Court the mapping of the entire forest area in Morni Hills will be done through the drone mapping technique and Survey of India (SOI) will be the principal authority for the survey. Sources said a private firm was hired for the drone mapping survey for Rs 18 lakh.
In its reply against the order of August 13, the Haryana Forest Department had claimed that FSO MP Sharma, a retired IFS officer, had made exorbitant and untenable demand for Rs 100 crore for the settlement of 50,000 acres land. The two-year term of FSO Sharma ended on July 31, 2020.
A local resident, Vijay Bansal, filed a PIL in the High Court saying that the Haryana government had acquired around 52,000 acres of land in 1969 and onwards without adopting the forest settlement process described in forest and revenue laws.
There are around 40,000 people from various villages of Morni, who have still not got compensation and even do not know about their exact land. Bansal claimed that in the absence of any clarity on the subject, illegal encroachment, illegal mining and deforestation continues in Morni hills. Advocate Sandeep Sangwan representing Vijay Bansal said the next date of hearing was fixed for September 14.
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