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Despite reminders, revenue dept clings on to forest land

The forest department has not yet received any response to the letters it sends every two months.

Written by Nisha Nambiar | Pune |
December 20, 2014 5:13:20 am

The forest department has been indulging in one-way communication with the revenue department for the past five years making a demand, return of the 14,000 hectares of forest land still with the revenue department despite strictures to return it.

The forest department has not yet received any response to the letters it sends every two months. The letters mention that land which was earlier with the revenue needs to be handed back to the forest department following a government direction to that effect..

“From 2009 onwards, our department has been in communication with revenue authorities. Initially, it was 35,183 hectares and was managed by the revenue department. After government rules mandated it, the revenue department returned 20,890 hectares. The remaining land, which is likely being encroached upon or which may have seen a change in land use, had not been handed back,’’ said forest officials.

The forest department has sent four letters to the revenue authorities until September this year and is ready to write again, though there is little hope of any response.

“Despite government directives to the district administration the forest department is yet to get back 14,293 hectares in various parts of Pune district. The land is allegedly encroached upon or illegally allotted to beneficiaries,” say forest officials.

The issue has been pending since 2009 after directives were issued by Principal Conservator of Forests. The directives are based on a government circular issued on April 1976, instructing the revenue department to hand back forest land if the latter sought it.

In 2008, the government asked the district administration to conduct an inquiry into large-scale irregularities alleged in allotment of forest land in Pune. In May 2009, the state government ordered an inquiry into a scam allegedly involving 35,183 hectares of reserved land spread across 219 villages in Pune district.

After the directives, the department got back 20,890 hectares. The forest officials said that several meetings were conducted to review the report prepared by the forest department and revenue officers, given irregularities alleged in Indapur, Daund and Baramati talukas. “We are not sure why revenue officials are delaying it. It is high time they returned the land,” said forest officials.

A special investigation team looked into extent of encroachment of forest land and identified beneficiaries. An officer, a talathi and a forest guard from the district administration and a surveyor from the revenue department surveyed the land in villages.

Forest department alleges that 11,349 hectares seem to have been given to individual beneficiaries. There is no hope of getting it back, said officials. The remaining 2,944 hectares have been encroached upon in various areas.

Officials contacted for their reaction said issues of change of land use and encroachments are being looked into and it was taking time.

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