GUWAHATI, June 29 � Unabated encroachment on the hills around Guwahati city is said to be one of the main reasons for the waterlogging problem in the city and unfortunately, because of the failure of the Government to protect the hills, encroachment increased alarmingly in the last five years or so. Interestingly, a good number of encroachments also managed to get electricity connections.
Highly placed official sources admitted before The Assam Tribune that the pace of encroachment increased alarmingly in the last few years as there was a feeling among the encroachers that the Government would not dare to go in for large-scale evictions.
Sources revealed that the Kamrup (Metro) district administration carried out a study on human habitations on the hills in and around the city in 2005-06. The survey included those having permanent settlement as well as the encroachers. During the survey conducted in 16 hills in and around the city, it was found that altogether 68,000 households were staying on the hills. Interestingly, during the survey, it was found that majority of those living on the hills were encroachers. Sources said some people in the Ramsa Hills in Kharghuli area have permanent settlements and most other hills are officially notified forest areas.
However, the number of encroachers increased many times over in the last few years and early this year, nearly one lakh hill dwellers applied for permanent settlement and those who did not apply will be much more in number. New areas are being encroached upon with every passing day because of the failure of the administration to take effective steps even to prevent fresh encroachments, not to speak of evicting the encroachers. Though the Government started one eviction drive a few years back, that was stopped after one agitation, which turned violent.
Sources revealed that now the situation has come to such a pass that anyone who can forcefully occupy any plot of land on the hills can even sell the same at a very high price and the feeling that the Government would not launch any eviction drive also encouraged the encroachers.
Due to unabated cutting of the hills by the encroachers and unscrupulous persons, the drains are clogged with mud and silt even after a brief spell of rain, which adds to the water logging problem.
Interestingly, a good number of encroachers managed to get electricity connections. Sources in the Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) said that in the past, various documents including land pattas were checked while giving new connections. But the norms have now being simplified and a person has to give a proof of identity and an affidavit or certificate from the notary to prove that the land is under his or her occupation to get a connection.
But at the same time, ASEB sources said that a good number of encroachers are resorting to power theft. The ASEB launches drives against persons involved in power thefts from time to time, but the Board does not have adequate manpower to launch concerted effort in this regard. Moreover, very often the teams sent to take action against those involved in power theft on the hills face stiff resistance from the people. �Sometimes the male members of the families escape from the scene whenever teams are sent to the hills and the women launch agitations,� sources added.