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Guwahati Municipal Corporation, Forest Department Tussle over House-holding Numbers

The (GMC) move to assign house-holding numbers to people residing in the reserve forests in and around Guwahati city has brought the GMC into a confrontation with the Forest Department.

Guwahati Municipal Corporation

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  27 Sep 2022 2:15 AM GMT

STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI: The Guwahati Municipal Corporation's (GMC) move to assign house-holding numbers to people residing in the reserve forests in and around Guwahati city has brought the GMC into a confrontation with the Forest Department. Meanwhile, taking advantage of the tussle between the GMC and the Forest Department, a section of dalals is thriving.

The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) had come to an understanding with the Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL), whereby the latter would include the holding number of the respective households in the electricity bills. This decision had been taken by the GMC to enable proper assessment of the property to ensure proper tax collection. According to the understanding between the GMC and APDCL, the latter would not accept the electricity bills of consumers unless they merged their holding numbers with their electricity bills. The last date for this process was September 30, 2022 but now it has been extended to October 31.

There are reserve forests (RF) in and around Guwahati city where people are residing illegally. As per the Forest Act, these people have encroached upon forest land and they cannot be assigned holding numbers. The Forest Department has apprised the GMC about this. According to sources, the Forest Department has told the GMC that if it assigns house-holding numbers to the people living illegally on forest land, it will be forced to take action as per the Forest Act.

Forest Department sources said that there were eight reserve forests in and around Guwahati where thousands of people were living illegally. "According to rules, these people cannot get electricity connections. But despite this, the APDCL has given them electricity connections without proper verification. Now if the GMC goes a step further and assigns them house-holding numbers, these people will start asserting their rights over the land," said sources.

On the other hand, GMC sources said, "The house-holding number is an identification number issued and assigned to a property based on the type of property and ownership details. The GMC collects property tax based on the identification number. The land-holding number does not give people ownership rights over that property."

While the GMC and Forest Department tussle it out over land-holding numbers, dalals or middlemen have become active, especially in Hengrabari, Garbhanga and Kalapahar areas. These middlemen are assuring the people living illegally on reserve forest land to help them get their house-holding numbers soon and are taking commission from them. It has been alleged that there is a nexus between some GMC officials and these middlemen or dalals.

The State Government has been seen taking a tough stand against illegal encroachment. But the APDCL has flouted rules to give electricity connections to people living illegally in the reserve forests. Now if the GMC clears the path for these people to get house-holding numbers, will it not send the wrong signal to people who illegally encroach upon reserve forest land? Will it not embolden them to the extent that they might start asserting their land rights? The need of the hour is to stop this at the earliest and to evict these people from the reserve forests.

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