Assam minister Jogen Mohan | File photo

Assam government on March 17 said that more than 40.39 lakh bighas of forest and government land in the state have been encroached upon.

In reply to a written query by Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia, Assam revenue and disaster management minister Jogen Mohan said: “A total of 40,39,450 bighas of the forest, government land, village grazing reserve (VGR) and professional grazing reserve (PGR) land, railway land, satra land, water bodies land of the state have encroached.”

“Out of these 16944.93 hectares of land of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of the state are under encroachment. Apart from these 3,45,157.93 hectares of reserve forest land have also been encroached,” Mohan said.

“According to the state government data, 3740 hectares of land in Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve, 682.94 hectares of land in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, 500 hectares of land in Nameri National Park, 400 hectares of land in Barnadi WL Sanctuary, 964 hectares of land of Borail WL Sanctuary (West Block), 1500 hectares of land of Borail WL Sanctuary (East Block), 8500 hectares of land of Sonai Rupai WL Sanctuary, 121.73 hectares of land of Bherjan-Borajan-Padumoni WL Sanctuary, 270 hectares of land of Amchang WL Sanctuary, 10.5 hectares of land of Chakrasila WL Sanctuary, 134.76 hectares of land of Laokhowa WL Sanctuary, 121 hectares of land of Burachapori WL Sanctuary have encroached,” he added.

The minister further said in the assembly that the state government has conducted eviction drives in various parts of the state to clear government and forest land of encroachers and in 2021-22 and 2022-23, the state government cleared 5787.72 hectares of land of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, reserve forests from encroachers.

He said that more than 8.57 lakh people, including the landless, those affected by river erosion, economically weak people, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes people, as well as the minorities, have encroached government land, forest land, VGR, PGR, and land for water bodies in the state.

Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia said that the government has not taken any steps to provide land to the landless and flood-affected people who were evicted.

“As per an established custom, the landless should be given plots and those without roofs over their heads should be provided with homes. These are the constitutional duties of a democratic, socialist, and secular government. These are further mandated in the rights enshrined in our constitution. In spite of that, we are not being able to provide homes or land to many. As a result, these people sometimes occupy government land,” said Saikia.

He added that the government said it would provide shelter to landless people, in line with a judgment by the Supreme Court and similar verdicts by high courts in several states. “But the detail list shows that homeless, landless and flood-affected people in many districts were being evicted. However, the remarks section says no such steps have been taken by the government,” Saikia said.

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