Early Times Report
Anantnag, Nov 02: The maiden settlement of revenue records at famed tourist destination Pahalgam is drawing criticism from local residents and activists, who accuse government of helping land mafia in grabbing prized forestland. They say the Revenue Department’s settlement wing has taken Pahalgam under settlement operation to benefit those who have encroached upon the forestland in and around the picturesque area.
“Many hotels, huts and other commercial establishments have come up on forestland in Pahalgam during last two decades. Forest Department has demarcated the land and has even sent notices to violators from time to time, but now the settlement operation which Revenue Department is carrying out in Pahalgam is clearly being done to benefit land grabbers who have raised structures illegally on forestland,” Mushtaq Pahalgami, who heads Himalyan Welfare Association (HWO), said.
He said that to an RTI querry (vide number 240-41 dated 23-10-2015) the Forest Department has made it amply clear that it has not surrendered any forest land for commercial or any other purpose in Pahalgam particularly in compartment Nos. 34, 35A, 35B, 35C and 36 Ldr.“Without any NOC from the Forest Department, influential people encroached upon forestland under 60-C of 1944 and have raised constructions illegally,” said Pahalgami, adding that the land mafia is eying prized forestland.
He said the demarcation carried out in 1965 by the Forest Department also shows the land under 60C as forestland and cutting out plots form this land is clearly a blatant violation of the provisions of the forests Act and wildlife conservation norms as specified under various United Nations conventions, of which India is a signatory.
Pahalgami said his HWO has written in detail to Forest and Revenue departments reminding them of their legal obligations.Meanwhile, local residents who talked to Early Times termed it a conspiracy hatched by the land mafia. “If the land is according to records of Forest Department, how it can be demarcated and allotted to people after 72 years now,” they asked.
However, Tehsildar Pahalgam on being contacted denied to have kick started any settlement operation in Pahalgam. “No settlement operation is going on in Pahalgam, but a team constituted on the directions of Revenue Secretary is here to check encroachments,” Bashir Ahmad, Tehsildar Pahalgam, said.