KARIMGANJ, March 4 � The problem of encroachment in reserve forests under Karimganj forest division is posing a serious threat to forest resources.
There are six reserve forests in Karimganj district. According to data provided by the DEO of Karimganj, 837 families have encroached near about 1,197 hectares of the 15,139.30 hectares of land under Longai RF, 684 families are occupying 1322.36 hectares of the 7513.81 hectares area of Badsahitilla RF and 268 families have occupied 795 hectares out of the 3,478.28 hectares of Duhatia RF.
In Singla RF, 661.17 hectares land out of 12,429.53 hectares has been occupied by 881 families, 191 families are living on 107.20 hectares of the 1848 hectares area of Tilbhum RF while 469 families have encroached 414.56 hectares of the 7,647.35 hectares 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 comprises the tribal people and each family was allotted 2 bighas of land for betel leaf cultivation for a period of 3 years during the 1970s with the condition that within this period they should change their habit of shifting cultivation.
At the time of establishment of such villages, the total number of families were about 250, but due to population growth the number of families has increased ten times. Besides population growth, the Tangiya villages all the time invite 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 created there by obstructing the natural flow of water, besides the practice of jhum cultivation both in low and high lands.
In this way about 50 per cent of the total RF area is facing heavy ecological interference. However, this seems to be common picture all over the State.
Narrating the background of the encroachment process, the DFO disclosed that the forest and Tangiya village dwellers are voters in GP, LAC and HPC elections and political patronage to them cannot be ruled out. Moreover, inhabitants of most Tangiya villages are tribal Christians originating from Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura, the international linkage of the churches play 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. Under clause 2 (N) of the Tribal Act, the rights are conferred to a member who has been residing for three generations prior to 13.12.05 and three generations means, a period of 75 years and further under clause 2 (N), the biodiversity cannot be disturbed but to be enjoyed in a substantial way only.
Further, under clause 3 (w), the Act provides some relaxation for school, dispensary, drinking water facilities, 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 carrying out jhum cultivation along with setting up of fisheries, 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, biodiversity, ecology etc. are the basic duties. But surprisingly, all the above-mentioned clauses have been violated by the encroachers with impunity.