Encroachment files gather dust in Uttarakhand

EncroachmentsDehra Dun : Encroach upon river beds and banks, government and forest land and get away with it as the eyes of the administration are closed, seems to be the swan song of the Uttarakhand government, as nothing has been done as far as encroachments are concerned ever since this small mountain state came into existence in Nov 2000.

It is not that the government or for that matter the administration is unaware of it. In some cases the administration has preferred to keeps its eyes closed when the encroachments have been brought to its notice because of the politicians allegedly involved. In others, where surveys have been conducted, the reports have been conveniently kept in obscure shelves to gather dust.
Take the matter of the large scale encroachments on the banks and beds of the Rispana and Bindal rovers in the heart of the city. While the district administration spends sleepless nights, as do the people who have constructed their houses and shanties on the two streams, during the monsoons when there is a heavy downpour, lest there be a tragedy, the encroachers continue to have a ball.

It is not that the matter has not been brought to the notice of the authorities. Time and again the matter has been raked up by the media and others and in 2006, the then Lokayukta A S Raza directed the irrigation and public works department, the Nagar Nigam, the Mussoorie-Dehra Development Authority (MDDA) and the district administration to undertake a joint survey of the two streams to highlight the encroachments.

The report of the survey undertaken about seven years back showed that there were over 10,000 encroachments on the two rivers alone, which if sources are to be believed, may have almost doubled, is gathering dust in some obscure shelf. It is alleged that the politicians-land mafia and babudom nexus ensures that the encroachers get electricity and water connections, ration cards and voter cards, for after all they are ‘vote banks’.

But the question doing the rounds now is that the Uttarakhand High Court has issued directions that there shall be no construction of any kind within 200 metres of the rivers in the state. What about the thousands of encroachers who have made constructions in the river beds itself, forget a distance of even five or 10 metres, will any action be taken against them is what people ant to know.

Then there is the classic case of a resort being constructed in the Gihari range of the Rajaji National Park, which was highlighted by the vernacular press. In February this year following reports appearing in a section of the press and the Chief Wildlife warden was asked to probe the matter. More than six months have lapsed but the probe is yet to be over and a report submitted in the matter.

It is already well known that a number of resorts and post hotels have come up within the immediate vicinity of the Corbett National Park, including one by a current cabinet minister in the state government. Most of these resorts are a hindrance to the movement of the wildlife and some have even closed their corridors from which the animals mover from one forest compartment to another.

Despite the fact that the matter has been highlighted time and again and also how the forest road in the Park was allowed to be used to ferry construction material for an adjoining resort, but apparently the government prefers to look the other way, when the high and mighty break all norms, for they have the influence to ensure that the government adopts an ostrich syndrome.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish had worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.

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