Illegal encroachment rampant in BTC reserve forests, admits BTC deputy chief
From our Correspondent
KOKRAJHAR, Jan 10: The winter session of BTC Legislative Assembly ended with discussion on important issues. The assembly discussed the unabated illegal encroachment in reserve forest, protection of embankment of rivers in Bodoland region, non-completion of educational infrastructure under RMSA and supply of nutritious food for children in Anganwadi centres in the BTC area.
During the session, MCLAs Rwngwra Narzary, Ghanashyam Das and Maoti Brahma Hazoary raised questions as to how much part of BTC reserve forest had been encroached illegally and how the eviction drive had been carried out in the reserve forest. In reply, the deputy chief of BTC and in-charge of forest, Kampa Borgoyary, said the council had over 3,000 sq km forest cover but due to rampant encroachment it had been reduced and 490 sq km reserve forest had been illegally occupied. He said as per records available with the department concerned, 28 sq km area had been encroached in Kachugaon division, 54 sq km in Guma, 30 sq km in Porbhotjhora, 78 sq km in Chirang, 187 sq km km in Haltugaon division, 63 sq km km in Baksa, 19 sq km in Manas National Park, 11 sq km in Chakrasill wildlife division and 38 sq km in Dhansiri division. He admitted that rampant destruction of forest and illegal encroachment was going on unabated in BTC reserve forests.
Replying to questions, Borgoyary said the council had taken initiatives to evict the illegal encroachers and on many occasions the eviction drive was carried out. But there has been political and social resistance to the eviction drive which has become a matter of concern. He said that eviction drive was carried out in Panbari and Bhuyanpara Range in Manas National Park but some sections of people approached BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary and pressurized him to stop the eviction drive and thus the department concerned was compelled to stop the eviction drive due to political interference. He said over 100 families under Bhuyanpara Range were evicted recently and the evicted families were silent but after sometime, certain organizations and civil societies instigated the evicted families and they are now trying to re-encroach the core area of Manas National Park.
MCLA Rwngwra Narzary questioned whether the BTC forest department had a concrete policy regarding the eviction drive against illegal encroachers. He also said there was no question of rehabilitation or compensation to the families if they have already lost their land or if they are illegal immigrants. In reply, BTC deputy chief Kampa Borgoyary said the council had already carried out the survey work and identified the encroached areas, including the families. He said the council had decided to provide compensation of Rs 10,00,000 to each family after the eviction drive in Panbari areas of Manas National Park. But certain organizations have gone against the decision of the department. He also said the department concerned required support from all political parties and democratic organizations, including the involvement of NGOs, to free the forest land from illegal encroachers.
Borgoyary said the department of forest had a bitter experience of facing problems after carrying out eviction drive as there was political and social uproar over any eviction drive. He said law-and-order problems cropped up while carrying out eviction drive in reserve forest or in national park. MCLA Maoti Brahma Hazoary questioned whether the department concerned had taken action against the felling of trees and planting tea garden or rubber garden in Nayekgaon area of Kokrajhar. Borgoyary said certain people had illegally occupied the proposed reserve forest in Nayekgaon area and planted tea and rubber. The department destroyed the tea and rubber plantation several times but was facing political problems. Opposition MCLA Rwngwra Narzary questioned as to why the Anganwadi centres had not been constructed as per sanction and why the supply of nutritious food for children had been stopped. In reply, the EM of Social Welfare department said the State Government had sanctioned 7,165 Anganwadi centres in BTC region but only 1, 035 had been being constructed and remaining 6,129 were yet to come up. He said the supply of nutritious food to Anganwadi centres in BTC region had been stopped due to unknown reasons since 2016. He said the Commissioner of the department concerned never gave any response to the issue. He said that he had taken up the matter with minister Pramila Rain Brahma and BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary to pressurize the Government of Assam. MCLAs Jatirindra Brahma and Jiron Basumtary questioned as to why the embankment protection under Water Resources department had not been done on time. The EM of the department concerned, Moheswar Basumatary said that initiative had been taken to check the erosion caused by the rivers. He said the department had undertaken several schemes for protection of rivers Sonkoch and Aie but there had been no specific scheme at Hel River. The preliminary protection works at River Hel had been taken up under annual maintenance fund.