GUWAHATI, Feb 22 - The Supreme Court has directed the Assam Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on the status of eviction of illegal forest dwellers in the State whose claims on forest land have been rejected by the district-level authorities, the Assembly was informed by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary today.
The case relates to writ petition 108/ 2008 on the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
Patowary said the State will have to evict those people whose claims on forest rights have been rejected. �The government will have to file an affidavit on the action taken against the forest dwellers whose claims have been rejected at the Supreme Court on or before July 12 next,� Patowary said replying to a resolution moved by MLA Padma Hazarika.
Altogether 74,364 ST settlers and 19,966 traditional forest dwellers had put forward their claims and the district-level committees headed by the respective DCs had rejected around 39,000 of them.
In its ruling on February 20 last, the apex court had asked the State of Assam to file an affidavit on whether these 39,000 illegal settlers on forest land have been evicted and if not the reasons thereof.
Patowary said a proper ecological balance is needed for survival of both humans and other living beings. �Of the total land area, 33.5 per cent has to be forest as per norms. Assam was otherwise an ecologically balanced State, but over the years there has been rampant tree felling and the green cover had been vanishing,� he said.
The minister said that since this government came to power, around 2596.224 hectares of land have been freed from encroachment, and eviction operations are continuing depending on availability of funds.
�Even though some dwellers claims to have settled on the forest lands decades ago, we can prove them wrong using modern technology like satellite imagery,� he said.
Stating that there are provisions to allow tribal dwellers to settle in the forest land if they had settled there before December 13, 2005, Patowary said so far the government has accepted claims of 32,897 such tribal settlers and 822 traditional forest dwellers. Claims of around 39,720 settlers have been rejected by the district-level committees.