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IFP Editorial: One has to look at the larger picture of clearing up grotesque structures lining the highway and of saving forests.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 14 Jun 2022, 7:19 pm

(PHOTO: IFP)
(PHOTO: IFP)

There have been howls of protest against the eviction drive in Waithou and Usoipokpi from among the squatters and encroachers. Congress party has come out very strongly against the eviction which they term as ‘illegal’ and violation of law. MPCC president Keisham Meghachandra said that the state government misused and violated the rule of law using their power and the recent eviction drive at Waithou Protected Forest is clear proof of it.

It is true that, some of the families at Waithou had been living there for generations and most of them are dirt poor living on hand-to-mouth existence. President Meghachandra went on to assert that some of them received land allotment during 1975 when former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched a 20-point programme that primarily focussed on giving land to landless people. Sadly, they are only a few. Most of the huts and buildings dotting alongside the highway now belong to the new arrivals from nearby areas who had money and clout to circumvent land records and construct pucca buildings.

ALSO READ: Saving paddy land

Every time we cross Lilong, one would see temporary structures coming up on the slopes of the hills adjoining the highway in Waithou area which keeps increasing as the years go by. Twenty years back, the hillocks were bare and the slopes undisturbed.

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In a recent survey cum investigation launched jointly by Directorate of Settlement and Land Reforms, Forest Department and SDO Lilong on the initiative of Chief Minister N Biren Singh, manipulation of land records and issue of forged pattas have come to light. Two employees including a retired one have been arrested for manipulating land records and issuing forged pattas at the protected forest area of Waithou Hills.

Old land records of 1964 and maps were taken out and held under the microscope and evidence of tampering has been found. Further, 43 people who are in possession of forged pattas and 20 people who encroached into protected areas without holding any patta have so far been identified. One recalls a furious Chief Minister pulling up district officials for turning a blind eye to the said activities and even ordered eviction of the unauthorised structures along with the squatters. Now that, the highway has been upgraded, new alignments were made.

ALSO READ: Government never forcibly evicted anyone: CM Biren

However, the squatters did not lose sleep over it as it was business as usual. How could they do it if not they are backed by powerful elements. Land-grabbing has always powerful people pulling the strings from the back and the squatters are their pawn. The Revenue department has a long history of various land scams in the past involving powerful people. But, Manipur is not alone in land scams. Land-grabbing by the rich and powerful is everywhere. It had become so frequent that the previous government had made it compulsory for any land allotment to go through a Cabinet Sub-Committee. But, people always find a way to circumvent the rules and regulations.

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As many as 69 houses were razed to the ground on Sunday within the Waithou Reserve Forest area with heavy reinforcement of police and special forces. Forest officials said, the eviction was carried out following an eviction notice served on Friday to 71 illegal encroachers or illegal pattadars among the encroachers in the area.

ALSO READ: Manipur Congress condemns Waithou eviction, says erring officials must be punished

The eviction notice states that the encroachers were served show cause notice under Rule number 73 of Manipur Forest Rules, 2021 to submit their replies why they should not be evicted from the forest land and why the structures should not be dismantled. The opposition Congress while highlighting some genuine cases among the settlers there has also pointed out some procedural lapses in conducting the eviction drive. Yes, there might have been a few genuine cases or lapses in procedure. However, one has to look at the larger picture of clearing up grotesque structures lining the highway and of saving forests. Also, it must be remembered that there would be no complaints against those who choose to remain silent and do nothing.

EDITORIAL

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First published:14 Jun 2022, 7:19 pm

Tags:

evictiondemolition driveWaithou Reserve Forest areaLand-grabbing

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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