GUWAHATI, Sept 7 - �Trees do not vote, people do� � this exhortation has largely been used by influential sections, especially those who happen to be in power, to incite people into occupying forest land illegally.
Stating this in the Assembly today, Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said that the State government was committed to evicting all encroachers � except the traditional forest dwellers and others allowed by the law to live in forests � from forest land.
Brahma, who was replying to a question by AIUDF legislator Sahabuddin Ahmed, said that a total of 2,350.224 hectares (ha) of forest land across a number of reserved forests (RFs), wildlife sanctuaries and national parks had been cleared of encroachment in a period little more than one year since the BJP government assumed power in the State.
The break-up of the cleared forest land include the Manas National Park (1,600 hectare), Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary (150 ha), Burhachapori and Laokhowa wildlife sanctuaries (25 ha), Karimganj Forest Division (170.25 ha), Cachar Forest Division (7 ha), North Kamrup Forest Division (1.44 ha), West Kamrup Forest Division (7 ha), Dhubri Forest Division (58.48 ha), Goalpara Forest Division (95 ha), Aie Valley Forest Division (12 ha), Lakhimpur Forest Division (21.054 ha), East Sonitpur Forest Division (30 ha), South Nagaon Forest Division (59 ha), Doomdooma Forest Division (10 ha), and Digboi Forest Division (100 hectare).
The Forest Minister made it clear that the department had no policy of rehabilitation of the evicted people. At this, several legislators, including Ahmed and MI Haque Choudhury (AIUDF), called for a special policy by the government to rehabilitate the landless people who had settled on forest land.
To a supplementary question by BJP legislator Mrinal Saikia, Brahma said that the recent eviction drive at the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in the city was stopped midway due to apprehension of serious law and order situations. �But, we are preparing ourselves with enhanced logistics to resume the drive,� she added.
Aminul Islam (AIUDF) questioned why the government was not acting tough on encroachment by resort owners on forest land near the Kaziranga National Park as also encroachment by tea gardens.
To a suggestion by Haq Choudhury that eviction drives should be launched as soon as people start settling on forest land illegally, rather than allowing the situation to assume complications with the passage of time and increased population of encroachers, Brahma agreed that such an approach would be more effective.