Himachal CM sets up panel to suggest policy on encroachments

Shimla, Aug 24 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday announced the formation of a committee to suggest a policy on encroachments by poor landless people on forest and revenue land.

Recently there has been widespread debate and discussions regarding the action being taken to vacate the encroached government land. The chief minister made the announcement in a suo-motu statement in the assembly here.

He said action for eviction of encroachers from forest and revenue land has been accelerated on account of the directions of the high court.

“My government recognises that while illegal encroachments have to be proceeded against, there was also a human angle involved in the matter,” he said. “We need to approach the whole issue with both a legal and humane perspective.”

“Distinction needs to be made between those poor landless persons who are occupying government land out of duress and helplessness and those who have done so out of greed. Similarly, we may perhaps have to adopt different approaches for forest and non-forest land,” Virbhadra Singh said.

“Therefore, I ordered the formation of a high-level committee under the chairmanship of the financial commissioner (revenue) to take holistic view of the entire situation and to suggest appropriate policy which would address the concerns of the poor and marginalised,” he added.

An encroachment is an encroachment and the encroachers are liable to be evicted, the Himachal Pradesh High Court ruled on August 6.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan observed: “Encroachment on one inch or on thousand inches, is an encroachment and the encroachers are liable to be evicted and dealt with under law.”

Listing the case for the next hearing on September 28, the bench directed the state government to file fresh status reports or compliance reports within four weeks.

The high court on April 6 had directed the government to clear the encroachments by the fruit growers on forest land within six months, adding that electricity and water connections of encroachers should be disconnected.

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