The extent of encroachments in forests is to be blamed for the state of affairs prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir for a long time. As per the details provided by the forest department in J&K high court, thousands of kanals of the forest land stand encroached across Jammu and Kashmir.
Observing the gravity of the issue, the common top court of the J&K and Ladakh has directed that no other forum other than the court shall take any cognizance of any issue with regard to any claim or any matter associated with the encroachment of the forest land. The order aims to prevent any deferring of the process of retrieval of the public land through any temporary relief, reprieve, stay, or any type of deferring of the process of retrieval of the public land.
The concerned Departments have been resorting to delays, avoidance, deferment, and all sorts of protraction in providing details of the encroachers. However amid the court’s consistent directions pertaining to Jammu, a report comprising 3000 pages containing the list of encroachers have been filed and it would prevent any chance of tampering with of the list of identified persons by the Forest Department.
Recently, the court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation in Kashmir directed the authorities to provide details of the state and forest land in Gulmarg as well the details of the land encroached and particulars of those who have eaten up the precious land. Apart from locals, a major junk of the land is stated, through official or unofficial data, to be under encroachment of the politicians and other influential persons or VIPs.
One can confidently say that the encroachment of large the scale of land could have not been possible without the active connivance of the authorities in the Revenue and Forest departments as well the patronage of political influence. The encroachment of the forests has already led to a severe impact on the fragile ecology of the J&K and its wildlife.
The administration needs to act fast and started the process to retrieve the land without even waiting for the explicit direction by the court. The government is custodial of the land and it ought to take all measures to retrieve it. There is also a need for conservation and preservation of the forests for the immediate present and future generations.