REPEATED interventions by Congress president Sonia Gandhi have made the Uttarakhand government crack the whip on ‘ encroachers’ in Corbett Tiger Reserve.
The state government has banned any kind of land transaction within a radius of 2 km from the reserve boundary.
Sonia was apprised of this decision through a letter dated January 4, 2013 by chief minister Vijay Bahuguna.
News reports about land encroachment along the periphery of the national park, especially around the Ramganga river, prompted Sonia, who is also the chairman of the National Board for Wildlife, to take up the matter with the Prime Minister.
In a letter dated May 11, 2012, she demanded that allegations made in new reports be probed. “ The peripheral forestland are being encroached upon and tourism- related infrastructure is posing a threat to the wildlife in the reserve. I request you to have the matter urgently examined so that appropriate measures may be undertaken to preserve the ecological integrity of the reserve,” the letter stated.
The environment and forest ministry quickly constituted a two- member committee to probe the matter. On June 5, the committee submitted a report, accessed by M AIL T ODAY through an RTI application, seeking a probe against activities of four people — former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, former MP Akbar Ahmed Dumpy, former forest minister Nav Prabhat and Leisure Hotels managing director Mukund Prasad. The panel recommended immediate halt on all revenue land transactions in buffer areas of Corbett Tiger Reserve till a high- level probe is completed by the state government.
The report stated: “ A departmental inquiry should be conducted in the alleged collusion of officials to facilitate private hoteliers and lodge owners and MoU by the state with private angling associations in the buffer area must be terminated.” Sonia sent the findings to Bahuguna on June 12. She wrote: “ You are requested to look into the matter personally as the issue is of serious nature.” Bahuguna ordered a vigilance inquiry and immediately reverted to Sonia through a letter dated July 14, apprising her of the interim measures he had taken.
The chain mail concluded on January 4 when he submitted the result of the probe and informed the Congress chief that all land transactions around a 2- km radius of the national park have been banned. The report also gave a clean chit to Gadkari and Prasad, while the matter related to Akbar Ahmed Dumpy’s was referred to Bhati commission of inquiry.
RESULTS OF SONIA’S INITIATIVE
Land transactions within an area of radial distance of 2km from CTR boundary banned
Officials under probe for administrative lapses
Revenue department has issued instructions to DM not to entertain land use changes in respect of revenue land within CTR without ascertaining if it is clear from the point of view of various forest laws