BENGALURU: Thirty-seven big grantees in possession of 299.29 acres in Masgali Reserve Forest area of Chikkamagaluru district now face eviction as the state government has finally decided to treat them as ‘encroachments’. None of them possess records of any revenue grants.
As per the Supreme Court orders, 1,002 acres of encroachments that were surveyed and identified, have to be cleared and recovered in Masgali Reserve Forest by December 31, 2017. Recently, 452 acres of excess forest land in possession of encroachers have been recovered in the last four months. A review meeting by the Chief Secretary was held to discuss the Masgali Reserve Forest issue and the work done on the field for compliance as per the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court (dated August 29, 2017). Wide ranging decisions were taken during the meet — eviction of encroachers, demarcation of boundaries and clearance of coffee plantations in evicted/recovered lands of 452 acres.
As far as eviction of encroachers who received grants after 1978, is concerned, it was decided that 37 grantees in 41 locations in possession of 299.29 acres of forest land will be treated as ‘pure encroachments’, as no documents of grants were available anywhere either in the revenue department or with the so called grantees. Another decision that was taken in the review meeting was about the regularisation of 33 encroachments existing before 1978. The Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Chikkamagaluru was directed to submit a detailed proposal by December 15 for denotifying the extent of land available for regularization. However, seven encroachers belonging to the Scheduled Tribe, (if they opt for voluntary rehabilitation package), will be considered for rehabilitation. Regarding the survey and demarcation of the forest boundary, it was decided that until denotification of granted land is done, the boundary of the Masgali Reserved Forest will remain the same. Further, the uprooting of coffee plantations in 302 acres of recovered forest lands has to be done immediately and a report should be submitted on the compliance.
Criticizing the government’s decision, wildlife activists contend that 21 big encroachers who still possess 390 acres of forest land should also be treated as pure encroachments and evicted. Wildlife activist G Veeresh from Chikkamagaluru added, “The remaining 11 grantees (between 1944-1978) in possession of 277 acres and 10 other big grantees who received revenue grants of 113 acres after 1978 should be treated the same way and served eviction orders. The forest was notified in 1944, so, after this, all encroachers should be thrown out. Selective eviction raises the question — whose interest is the state government trying to protect?”
Questioning the government’s stand, D V Girish, Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust, said, “The apex court has taken up this issue seriously for 20 years, but the state government hasn’t taken a decision. There should be an uniform policy in the country, that illegal revenue grants will not be regularised, be it big or small.”