KARIMGANJ, June 24 � The problem of encroachment in reserve forests under Karimganj forest division is posing a serious threat to forest resources.
Thee are six reserve forests in Karimganj district. According to data provided by the DFO of Karimganj, 837 families have encroached upon 1,197 hectares in the 15139.30 hectare Longar RF, 684 families are occupying 1322.36 hectares of the 7513.81 hectares area of Badsahitilla RF and 286 families have occupied 795 hectares out of the 3478.28 hectares of Duhalia RF respectively.
In Singla RF, 661.17 hectares land out of 12429.53 hectares has been occupied by 881 families, 191 families are living on 107.20 hectares of the 1848 hectare area of Tilbhum RF, while 469 families are encroaching upon 414.56 hectares of the 7647.35 hectare area of Patheria RF.
The DFO disclosed that besides the above figures, there are 43 recognised forest villages and 17 �Tangiya� villages. The �Tangiya� villages comprise the tribals and each family was allotted 2 bighas of land for betel leaf cultivation for a period of 3 years during the 1970s with a condition that within this period they should change their habit of shifting cultivation.
At the time of establishment of such village, the total number of families were about 250, but due to population growth the number of families has increased many times and besides the population growth the �Tangiya� villagers all the time invited their own community members to illegally occupy RF land.
As per the latest census, more than 75 per cent of the total �Tangiya� villagers are not the original allottees. Moreover, it is very unfortunate that instead of betel leaf cultivation, more than 100 fisheries have been set up, thereby obstructing the natural flow of water. In this way, about 50 per cent of the total RF area is under heavy biotic interference. However, this is a common picture all over the State.
Narrating the background of encroachment process, the DFO disclosed that the forest and �Tangiya� village dwellers are voters in GP, LAC and HPC elections and political patronage cannot be denied. Moreover, different churches are also concerned as inhabitants of most �Tangiya� villagers are tribal Christians originating from Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura and hence the international linkage of the churches plays a pivotal role in the matter.
On the plea of Tribal Act 2006, the �Tangiya� settlers are continuously inviting their own community members from the adjoining states and accentuating encroachment by way of jhum cultivation. Though under Clause 2(N) of the Tribal Act 2006, the rights conferred to a member who has been residing for three generations prior to 13,12.05 and three generation means a period of 75 yeas and further under clause 2(N), the bio-diversity cannot be distributed, but to be enjoyed in a substantiable way only.
Further, under clause 3 (W), the Act provides some relaxation for school, dispensary, drinking water, roads, minor irrigation etc., but under due permission from the Government of India only for a plot of land not more than one hectare.
Inspite of all such provisions, the �Tangiyas� are trying to occupy more RF land and conducting jhum cultivation, setting up fisheries, constructing pucca houses in violation of the clauses and chapter III of Clause 5 �duties of holders� where it is specifically mentioned that the protection of forest, wildlife, bio-diversity, ecology etc., are the basic duties. Not surprisingly, all the above mentioned clauses have been violated by the encroachers with impunity.