Anti-encroachment drive set to free up forest land in Assam

The BJP government has been carrying out such eviction drives since it assumed power, with two of them being undertaken last month

Published - January 09, 2023 03:21 am IST

The police at an anti­-encroachment drive undertaken in Nagaon district of Assam.

The police at an anti­-encroachment drive undertaken in Nagaon district of Assam. | Photo Credit: PTI

An eviction drive to clear over 500 hectares of forest land in Assam’s Lakhimpur district will be undertaken by the administration on Tuesday, affecting nearly 100 families, officials said.

Lakhimpur Superintendent of Police Bedanta Madhab Rajkhowa said 600 personnel of the State police and the CRPF have been deployed for the exercise and a mock drill was conducted by the forces on Sunday.

“We are prepared to conduct the drive in a smooth and peaceful manner,” he added.

Out of 2,560.25 hectares of Pava Reserve Forest, only 29 hectares are currently free of any encroachment. In the first phase on January, 10,500 hectares in Adhasona and Mohaghuli villages will be cleared, the officials said.

The Himanta Biswa Sarma-led dispensation has been carrying out eviction drives in different parts of the State since it assumed power in May 2021, with two such exercises undertaken last month.

The drive in Nagaon’s Batadrava on December 19 was billed as one of the largest in the region in terms of the number of people affected, with more than 5,000 alleged encroachers being uprooted.

Among the other major eviction drives was the one in the Dhalpur area of Darrang district which led to violence, resulting in the death of two persons and injury of over 20 in September 2021.

Lakhimpur Divisional Forest Officer Ashok Kumar Dev Choudhury stated that at least 701 families had encroached upon the Pava forest land over the past decades. The illegal settlers include people from different parts of the State as well as local residents displaced due to flood and erosion.

District Deputy Commissioner Sumit Sattawan said about 80 families have already left the villages and another 100 are still living there. “We have requested people still residing on these lands to leave peacefully,” he said.

The DC said the people living in the encroached areas were notified by the Forest Department and the local administration two years ago to vacate the area.

In July last year, 84 families submitted documents claiming land ownership but these were found to be fake. On September 7, the circle officer of Naoboicha personally approached the encroachers and asked them to leave voluntarily, he said.

The drive was supposed to be carried out in September. “We had to defer it as floods hit the area. In the last two weeks, we have again conveyed to the encroachers that the eviction drive will be conducted on January 10,” Mr. Sattawan added.

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