Government plans to take over 8,373 acres of leased forest land from Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Limited
Tamil Nadu government is exploring options to recover 8,373 acres of core tiger habitat in Singampatti in Ambasamudram taluk in Tirunelveli district from the possession of Bombay Burmah
CHENNAI : Tamil Nadu government is exploring options to recover 8,373 acres of core tiger habitat in Singampatti in Ambasamudram taluk in Tirunelveli district from the possession of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Limited (BBTC) before the expiry of lease period, which is February 11, 2028.The State government has already declared these lands as reserve forest by virtue of a Government Order (GO) passed on January 12, 2018. In the GO, Nasimuddin, principal secretary, Department of Environment and Forests, said the proposal of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for declaring the 23,000 hectares in Singampatti forest block (in the Kalakadu Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve) has been approved and will be declared as Reserve Forest with effect from September 19, 2018. In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 16 of the Tamil Nadu Forest Act 1882, the Governor has declared the area as RF, according to the GO.
State forest department has won the historic legal battle with BBTC, which dragged on for four decades. On September 1, 2017, Madras High Court rejected the company’s plea for grant of patta and keep the land under its possession out of proposed RF. However, the court allowed the company to remain in possession of the leased area till February 11, 2028.
But now, the State government is indicating that it will not wait till 2028 and is also planning to impose commercial rent for the leased land. The lands were given on a 99 year lease to BBTC by Ex Zamindhar of Singampatti to cultivate tea, coffee, cardamom etc from February 12, 1929 for a paltry sum of `1.57 per acre.
Nasimuddin confirmed to Express that the government was looking to take over the lands well before the lease period ends. “If you read the High Court order closely, it says the government can act in case of any violations. We have also argued and got favourable orders to charge them at commercial rates, which itself will run into several hundreds of crores. We are in the process,” he said without elaborating on the kind of violations the company has committed which enables the government to cancel the lease agreement before 2028.
Recalling his days as sub-collector of Tirunelveli in 1991-93, Nasimuddin said he dealt with BBTC issue and even prepared an inspection report in April, 1993. “Today, we are tackling the same issue raised at that time. I had told then that we have to charge the BBTC at commercial rates since it is a private company,” he said. Nasimuddin said the government is also expediting the process to take over large tracts of Gudalur Janmam lands falling in the elephant corridor from big plantation lessees.
The proposal for declaring the 23,000 hectares in Singampatti forest block in Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve as reserve forest has been approved