THE NATIONAL Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Odisha government to evict two major educational institutions, including a tribal school run by education baron Achyuta Samanta, for allegedly encroaching 18 acres of forest land in Bhubaneswar in violation of the Forest Conservation Act. Hearing a PIL filed by human rights activist Subash Mohapatra on Tuesday, a bench headed by Justice S P Wangdi of NGT Eastern bench asked the Odisha Chief Secretary to implement its order.
It ruled that the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) had in an unauthorised manner built playground, houses and gardens without taking approval from the Forest & Environment Department. Last year, Mohapatra had filed a petition before the NGT’s Kolkata bench, seeking a direction to the Odisha government and Centre for starting criminal proceedings against Samanta, whose Kalinga Relief and Charitable Trust has allegedly encroached over 18 acres of forest land in Patharagadia and Patia mouza of Bhubaneswar.
Samanta is the managing trustee of Bhubaneswar-based Kalinga Relief and Charitable Trust, which runs the KIIT and tribal residential school KISS, one of the largest residential schools in India. Incidentally, Samanta was once member of the Forest Rights Committee that allows diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes. The state government had in 2011 awarded Prakruti Mitra Puraskar to him for outstanding contribution to save nature and environment.
In his petition, Mohapatra stated that around 18 acres of forest land, mostly of Chhot Jungle Kisam, a category of revenue forest land, was encroached by KIIT and KISS for constructing educational institution and playground. The issue was also discussed in the Assembly several times.