Anti-encroachment drive hits dead end near Bannerghatta

Anti-encroachment drive hits dead end near Bannerghatta

 Forest department officials are finding it tough to recover 525 acres of encroached forest land in Bhootanahalli’s Ragihallikaval forest patch, abutting Bannerghatta National Park.

The High Court of Karnataka in 2013 formed a committee headed by the deputy commissioner of Bangalore Urban district to clear encroachments on all government and forest lands in the district. 

The panel was constituted when the court was hearing a petition filed by S R Hiremath of Samaja Parivartana Samudaya.

The committee held three meetings between December 2013 and January 2014 and concluded that as many as 525 acres of forest land in Bhootanahalli of Ragihallikaval has been encroached upon. The officials of the Forest department launched a clearance drive on January 6 and reclaimed 67 acres.

“We have been struggling to clear the encroachment and even after 10 days of operation, we have been able to recover only 67 acres. The reclaimed land includes rain-fed agricultural land, farmland, garden land and vacant sites. As many as 170 policemen and 65 personnel from Forest department were utilised for the purpose,” a Forest department official said.

He said that sites have been formed on the rest of the encroached area and sold to several purchasers. Permanent structures have been constructed on such sites while villages have come up on some portion of encroached land. People who have purchased sites do not have valid documents. Around 22 purchasers have approached the High Court, seeking status quo on their sites. Coconut, chikkoo and mango have been grown on around six acres.

Forest officials blame laxity on the part of the Revenue department for rampant encroachments.

“The land in question was notified as forest way back in 1934 under the Indian Forest Act. The revenue officials have illegally granted land by issuing conversion orders. Also, as per the Supreme Court direction in the Nirvana Gowda vs State case in 2011, grant of any forest land is null and void. The Revenue department does not have the authority to grant forest land,” he said.

Basavaraju, principal secretary to the Revenue department, said that there were several such cases in Karnataka.
 “I do not remember this incident. I will look into the matter. It must have happened in the past. I will have to look into the files. Strict action will be taken against the violators and no one will be spared,” he said. 

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