Published On: Thu, Jun 13th, 2013

Akhilesh govt ‘engineers’
massacre of green cover

Sonbhadra admin hands over the forest land for engineering college after secy to ‘environmentalist’ CM shoots an order

 

It’s a gross violation of SC order, the Forest Act and also recommendations made by dist administration’s own panel


Lucknow
: A young head of state infuses new vigour into a sagging system, but the baggage of inexperience often proves counter-productive. This is exactly what has happened in case of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was virtually kept in the dark about the facts by the bureaucrats close to him and got him to sign on an order giving away five hectare of reserve forest land for construction of a government engineering college in Sonbhadra district.

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It all started with a request letter addressed to the chief minister from Samajwadi Party’s Sonbhadra MLA, seeking government land for getting an engineering college established in  his constituency

At a time when India is fast losing its green cover — at the rate of 135 hectares per day, according to documents available with `indileak’ — the sheer ‘innocence’ with which the self-acclaimed environmentalist chief minister has ordered the massacre of forest cover has raised the hackles of eco warriors. The chief minister’s order is a blatant violation of Central green acts and probably none of his advisors suggested him that some mandatory sanctions were needed before his secretariat shot it to the Sonbhadra DM.

It all started with a request letter addressed to the chief minister from Samajwadi Party’s Sonbhadra MLA, seeking government land for getting an engineering college established in the Churk area of his constituency. A four-member committee was constituted to examine the feasibility of the aforementioned proposal. The panel concluded that since the land in question fell in the reserve forest area, it was not feasible to set up an engineering college there.

However, ignoring the recommendation of the committee that the land in the question was reserve forest, Pandhari Yadav, a special secretary in the chief minister’s office, wrote a letter to the Sonbhadra DM on March 21, 2013, directing him to get the land in question examined and after carrying out the necessary formalities send his report to the principal secretary, technical education. Yadav, interestingly, himself has worked as Sonbhadra DM a few months ago.

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The report of four-member committee appointed by the state government which clearly recommended against setting of engineering college on the said land

Taking the letter of the CM’s special secretary as a diktat from the power that be, the Sonbhadra district administration swung into action and did everything in contravention to the established norms and rules to please the `bosses’ sitting in the state headquarters.

Sources in the government said that since the land was earmarked as forest land under section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, the divisional forest officer (DFO), Sonbhadra was summoned and asked to give a no objection certificate. “The DFO concerned apprised the revenue officials that the land could be transferred to the engineering college only after seeking a clearance from the Union Government,” confided a senior forest official who said that the revenue official took the written communication of the DFO as a No Objection Certificate for their convenience.

The letter of CM's special secretary to the Sonbhadra DM

The letter of CM’s special secretary to the Sonbhadra DM

Subsequently, the sub-divisional magistrate, Robertsganj, devised a way to transfer the land to the state government by showing it to be a piece of gram sabha land and got a case – State vs Gram Sabha– registered in his own court under Zamindari Abolition Land Reforms (ZALR). He then delivered his judgment on June1, 2013 in favour of the state. In a huff, based on this judgment, then entries were made in the revenue records also and the forest land was now ready for an engineering college, in gross violation of a Supreme Court order, the Forest Conservation Act and also recommendations made by the state government’s own committee.

It is worth mentioning here that as per Apex Court ruling in the NTPC case, lands which are notified under section 4 of Indian Forest Act would also come under the purview of Forest (conservation) Act 1980. Since the land in question was forest land, it was blatantly wrong on the part of the Robertsganj SDM to have entertained a case in his court under ZALR, pointed out a senior official in the government. He said that all the officials involved in the unlawful act could be prosecuted under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.

 

 

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