'Examine ways to reduce extent of deemed forest areas'

'Examine ways to reduce extent of deemed forest areas'

The State Cabinet on Monday directed the State Forest, Ecology, and Environment department to examine the possibility of further reducing the extent of deemed forest areas identified after a joint survey in the State.

The department had sought the Cabinet approval for reducing the deemed forest area from 9,94,811.11 hectares to 5,00,611.70 hectares, as per the joint survey. The Cabinet deferred taking a decision and directed the department to examine the possibility of further reducing the deemed forest area, sources in the government said.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had chaired the Cabinet meeting. The government did not brief the media on the Cabinet decisions in view of the model code of conduct for the Karnataka Legislative Council elections.

The chief minister is learnt to have said that he had received complaints that about 90,000 hectares have been included as deemed forest. The department has to conduct a thorough verification of all those lands added as deemed forest. Steps should be taken to exclude revenue land if any, Siddaramaiah learnt to have said.

The expert committee was set up as per the Supreme Court order to identify different categories of forests in the State. The panel had identified 9,94,881 hectares as deemed forest in its report, which met with stiff opposition from various quarters, including the elected representatives from the Malnad region. Later, it was decided to conduct a survey of deemed forest areas jointly by the officials of the Forest and the Revenue departments, the sources said.

The government has to submit the final report on the status of deemed forest to the Supreme Court. All encroachments in the forest areas will be cleared once the report is finalised, the sources added.

The Cabinet gave its approval to a proposal to give free shoes and socks to students in government-run schools in the next academic year at a cost of Rs 120 crore. An estimated 48 lakh students from standards one to 10 will benefit from the decision.

As per the proposal, a pair of shoes and socks for students of standards one to five will cost Rs 225; Rs 250 for a pair of shoes and socks for standard six and standard eight and, Rs 275 for students studying in ninth standard and 10th standard.The School Development Management Committee will be given the responsibility to procure shoes and socks and distribute them to students. The Cabinet also approved a proposal to provide bicycles to students of both government and aided schools in the next academic year at a cost of Rs 188 crore, the sources said.

The Cabinet extended the term of the Special Investigation Team set up in the Karnataka Lokayukta to probe illegal mining for one year from January 1, 2016.

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