'Purely forest land' encroached by Minister for PHE, Taj Mohiddin: Forest officials

THE opposition by Omar Abdullah government to the Legislative Council's House Committee probe against Minister for PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Taj Mohiuddin not withstanding, the forest department has again charged him with having encroached upon its land in Shopian district of Kashmir Valley.

Significantly, the forest department's charge came only two days after the Medical Education Minister R S Chib in a letter dated November 7 this year to the Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra, questioned the futility of the House Committee probe ordered by him especially when the Forest Minister Mian Altaf had during its October session, categorically denied encroachment of forest land by any sitting minister in Omar Abdullah government. Chib, who also happens to be leader of the Upper House of the State Legislature, had asked Malhotra to review his decision as it was leading to constitutional crisis in the state as the same was taken by him without taking into confidence Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to which the minister had been a member.

Following Chib's letter, two National Conference legislators resigned from the House Committee describing its probe against the minister as being ``without jurisdiction'' and ``an exercise in futility''. Following pressure from both the ruling National Conference and Congress legislators, Malhotra finally to dissolve the House Committee.

However, the ruling coalition's stand over Taj Mohiuddin occupying forest land not withstanding, the forest department has in its latest official communiqué on November 9 again reiterated its stand that the minister was in possession of a portion of its land at village Sedow in Shopian district. In his letter No. DFO/Spn/2241-43/2 dated November 9, 2012, to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, the DFO Shopian has pointed out that the local people at Sedow village have encroached upon large chunks of demarcated forest land during the last two decades. However, the department could not take up periodic demarcation of the area due to turmoil. As a result, the demarcation records of the Division could not be updated due to non-existence of the boundary pillars on the ground.

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