GUWAHATI, June 23 � The State Government will follow zero-tolerance policy on wetland encroachment while the prospects of granting settlement rights (patta) to the landless poor residing in hills (excluding reserve forest areas) in Guwahati would be assessed by a committee headed by Dr Bhumidhar Barman.
The committee will comprise the four MLAs of the city, three distinguished citizens and the Forest Minister, and submit its report within a month, pending which the eviction drive on hills would be kept in abeyance.
The Government will also not involve any �organization of professional agitators� in talks over issues like eviction or land settlement.
Meanwhile, the Surajit Mitra (Addl Chief Secretary) inquiry committee probing Wednesday�s riot-like situation triggered by frenzied protesters at the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti-called demonstration and the subsequent police firing will submit its preliminary report tomorrow. The final report will be out in ten days.
Addressing a joint press conference with Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain, Government spokesperson and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said �lots of action� would follow in the next few days, and that the culprits directly involved in arson as well as their instigators would be identified with the video footage available and on the basis of the confession of the culprits.
�We want the law to proceed in its own course so that the Government does not end up looking vindictive. The violence was pre-planned, as corroborated by the fact that the protesters carried with themselves stones, sticks and petrol,� Sarma said when asked why no action was yet taken on KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi following Wednesday�s mayhem.
Admitting that there were lapses on the part of the administration and police who failed to anticipate the violence and take adequate preventive measures, Sarma said that the assurance by the organizers about a �peaceful and democratic� protest was taken at face value by the authorities.
�But henceforth past records of any organization seeking to stage protest demonstrations would be taken into account before allowing it the go-ahead,� he said.
The Minister also made it clear that the Government would not discuss the issues concerning eviction or land settlement with �trouble-makers or professional agitationists�, rather the citizens� committees of the areas in question would be involved in the negotiation and assessment process.
�The Dr Barman committee would review the entire gamut of issues concerning encroachment and land patta to the landless poor or their rehabilitation in consultation with the citizens committees. However, the Government will be extremely firm in removing encroachments from wetlands like Silsako, Sola Beel, Deepor Beel, etc., and will adopt stringest of measures to keep them free from human settlements,� Sarma said.
Hussain revealed that the Government would raise a special hill protection force to check encroachment in the reserve forests on hills besides facilitating large-scale afforestation in degraded areas.
�We have identified 16 spots free from human intervention on hills � both forestland and revenue land � and plan to start a plantation drive there. The battalion which will be responsible for checking encroachment will have a mandate for all over the State,� Hussain said.
Hussain also said that from now on the forest officials would held be accountable in the event of any fresh case of illegal occupation on forestland and face stern legal action for allowing such violations.
Sarma said that as per the last household assessment, the city had around two lakh households of which one lakh was on the plains and 95,000 were on the hills, with 5,000 yet to be classified. �The number of households on hills was only 30,000 in 2006,� he added.
Sarma also revealed that about 170 private vehicles were damaged by the agitators in Wednesday�s violence.