Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Thursday stated that the government will plan to rehabilitate encroachers settling inside reserve and protected forests and government land if they do not own any homestead land.
The chief minister was speaking during a meeting of officials of the forest and revenue departments convened by him at CM’s office in Imphal to address the loopholes that became evident in the wake of intensified crackdown on encroachers recently.
Indicating that the government is hell bent on protection of forests and government land, he said that the agenda of the meeting is to resolve land disputes, misunderstandings and overlapping of jurisdictions of the forest and revenue departments.
It may be recalled that the Imphal Free Press in its May 30 Editorial had pointed out that "the present district boundary system as it exists is quite arbitrary and not people friendly and it needs to be rationalized. So, we would strongly suggest that the rights of the forest dwellers along with the rights of the valley people residing in the foothills who depend on the nearby hills for their livelihood be considered in the said process of reconciliation".
During the meeting, Biren rebuked officials concerned of the Revenue Department for allotting land to encroachers in an unauthorised manner in collusion with different people.
The chief minister also pulled up the officials for tampering maps to portray agricultural land or wetlands as homestead land in their bid to gain some personal benefits.
He further contended that such misdeeds have jeopardised future developments and state planning since the government is being stripped of land for setting up infrastructures.
Pointing out that village settlement in Nongmaiching was allowed in 1985 despite Nongmaiching being declared as reserved forest in 1960, he said that lack of cooperation and rapport between the forest department and revenue department is leading to the illegal occupation of land.
CM Biren instructed the officials of the forest department to look after the reserved and protected forests while those of the revenue department to look after the surveyed land based on relevant acts and provisions.
The chief minister went on to caution that responsibility will be fixed on officials concerned if they are found violating the provisions of relevant acts and laws for land protection.
Urging the officials also to rectify their past misdeeds immediately, he exhorted them to work with sincerity and transparency in the interest of the future generations.
He also instructed the Forest Department officials to issue circulars in different dialects of the state and to hold meetings with village chiefs to raise awareness about the provisions of different acts and legislations for land protection.
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Taking part in the meeting, Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar emphasised the need to immediately depute field staff for identifying the government land that has been encroached and whether land record has been issued to encroachers.
He said that the government will be helpless in driving out the illegal occupants without proper demarcation and documents.
He also stressed on the need for vacating river banks encroached with shops and other structures.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, AK Joshi, staff of forest and revenue department and various government officials took part in the meet.