NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Dec 2 - The Gauhati High Court has kept in abeyance the proposed eviction drive against encroachers by the State Forest Department in Pabho Reserve Forest within Lakhimpur district.
Hearing a writ petition filed by three persons against the proposed eviction drive to be undertaken by the State Forest Department, the Gauhati High Court stayed the order asking for proper rehabilitation of the �settlers�, who primarily consist of flood and erosion-affected villagers. Before evicting them from the forest land, the erosion-hit settlers need to be properly rehabilitated, the high court observed.
The settlers in Pabho Reserve Forest were served notice by Harmutty Range Office of Lakhimpur Forest Department to evict their settlements by December 2, 2017. Nine hundred families have been living in Pabha Reserve Forest since 1969 following loss of their land to flood and erosion by the Subansiri in Lakhimpur district.
Flood affected villagers from Nowboisa and Bihpuria revenue circles have been residing in this reserve forest where there are schools and naamghars with electricity connection. The villagers had applied for rehabilitation by the State Government in 1983, 1991 and in 2000, but their demands were never met by the powers that be.
On the other hand, the Pabho Reserve Forest which was once famous for wild buffaloes with 4,625.87 hectares of pristine land has been cleared and occupied by the settlers, leaving nothing to be called a reserve forest. But officially, Pabho Reserve Forest exists in black and white and is the centre of various alleged irregularities and scams committed by the district Forest Department. The district Forest Department has been allegedly executing various schemes of plantation and preservation in this non-existent reserve forest and regularly collecting money from the settlers by blackmailing them with eviction notices over the years.
When contacted by this Correspondent, Harmutty Forest Ranger Pranjal Kakati on Thursday admitted to serving notices to the settlers of Pabho Reserve Forest by his office. However, he said that the eviction drive could not be conducted because of the lack of funds in his department. This confirms alleged complicity by the district Forest Department in Pabho Reserve Forest where eviction notices have been served with a deadline of December 2 without having the required provisions of execution.