Modernisation of Revenue Dept. in Kerala on the anvil

With Revenue and Forest Departments embroiled in a conflict over the illegal felling of trees in government-assigned lands, a proposal has been mooted to modernise Revenue Department to equip it to manage all lands and resources within its jurisdiction in a scientific manner using Global Positioning System (GPS) information.

Many believe the proposal, under the active consideration of the State government, will equip the Revenue Department to handle the task of resource management outside forestlands. “The Revenue Department should fully own up management of resource in its jurisdiction so as to end the confusion in the exercise of authority. The department should not just engage in tax collection but also take responsibility. Now, the Forest Department has been dragged into unnecessary complexities and controversies on revenue land,” P.N. Unnikrishnan, former Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Department of Wildlife and Forests, who pioneered the Participatory Forest Management in Kerala, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

He said a computerised information system would help the Revenue Department to maintain an inventory of resources indicating their geographical location. Thus, inventories of man-made farmlands, ponds, wells, canals, roads as well as natural resources (trees, streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, natural forests and ecosystems, fragile and threatened landscape, and mangroves) would be available with the government.

“This database generated could be mapped onto survey map as well as employed for taking management decisions,” Mr. Unnikrishnan, first director of Attapadi Hills Area Development Society Project (AHADS).

Mr. Unnikrishnan, who also had a stint as wildlife warden of Silent Valley National Park and erstwhile Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, said as of now, the Forest Department was the sole legal authority on forest land and its resources. “However, the same cannot be said about the Revenue Department. It had assigned land to individuals or institutions but showed little concern for the land and resources under its authority. It sees itself as an authority to assign land based on survey numbers and then ignores the fate of the land and its resources,” Mr. Unnikrishnan said.

He said that forest land was entirely under State ownership while revenue land was assignable to individuals. “An assignment of revenue land whether it is leased or handed over does not change the ownership though it allows private individuals the right of use. The ultimate ownership is retained by the State,” Mr. Unnikrishnan, who had worked with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), said.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 9:01:52 PM |

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