MLA of Saikot ST assembly constituency, Paolienlal Haokip, has questioned revenue and forest survey being conducted in Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest in Churachandpur.
In a letter dated April 12 addressed to Environment, Forest and Climate Change minister Th Biswajit Singh, the MLA, representing 59-Saikot (ST) Assembly constituency, described it as a matter of great public anguish and perceived injustice.
His letter stated that some revenue and forest officials have been recently deployed to carry out some survey of the so-called Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest in Churachandpur district.
The MLA reminded the minister of a question he raised during the question hour in the Assembly Session, as to whether the state government has nullified the orders of the then Assistant Settlement Officers of the Forest Department excluding certain villages from the proposed Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest of the time to which the minister replied in the affirmative.
Maintaining that he could not raise supplementary questions as question hour ran out, Paolienlal Haokip said he would be allowed to raise the pertinent questions through the letter.
The MLA asked how can the state government nullify such orders of the ASO who by law, in the absence of FSO (vacant as the government failed to appoint one at that time) was the statutory authority to settle any claims of pre-existing rights on land?
"The authority and duties of the FSO/ASO are statutory under the Indian Forests Act, 1927, and doesn't require the state government to specially authorize, as claimed by the state government in the annulment order”, the MLA said in his letter.
Further, the MLA stated that the delay in processing of claims cited as a reason for annulment was the fault of the authorities concerned and not of the land owners, and hence cannot be a reason for annulment of the orders excluding lands claimed by chiefs from the said PF.
The MLA said some delays in submission of claims of pre-existing rights must have been caused by the failure on the part of the government to declare its intent to constitute a protected forest, as required under the Indian Forests Act, 1927, in vernacular, keeping the largely illiterate chiefs of those days in the dark and unaware.
“I have earlier asked the PCCF to supply me copies of such information published in vernacular (DoL.Rep.(Forest)/SKT-MLA/05/2022(17) Dated: 27 May, 2022), to which I have yet to receive any response”, MLA said in his letter.
The MLA sought clarification from the forest department whether the current exercise of survey teams being deployed is due to absence of any survey records with the government, which will prove the gazette declaring the Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest is flawed and therefore void ab initio, and if not, the purpose behind the present exercise.
The MLA also asked whether fresh surveys are being conducted in all such PFs, and if so, the detailed schedule for such surveys, adding that unless it is a comprehensive exercise, the present exercise is perceived to be selective and targeted in nature, causing public angst.