NAGPUR: A piece of prime 0.1 hectare (10,763 sq ft) zudpi jungle land worth over Rs 3 crore near Laxmi Nagar Square is not available to the forest department, thanks to the indifference of its own officials.
Information sought recently by Abdul Karim Patel, working president, Democratic Secular Party (DSP), under the Right to Information Act, shows that the land is under the control of deputy conservator of forests, Civil Lines, Nagpur, range forest officer, Seminary Hills, and two other officials.
"Strangely, the land is managed by Shree Ram Seva Mandal, Bajaj Nagar, which is looking after a small garden and a temple constructed under the MLA's fund. A small passage of the land is also being used by the residents as entry point,'' claims Patel.
When contacted, west Nagpur MLA Devendra Fadnavis, who had funded the project, said: "There were encroachments on the land causing nuisance to the residents. Assuming it to be corporation land, we utilised it for a temple and a garden. When we learnt that the land belongs to the forest department, we informed the officials concerned and informally got their nod.''
"Otherwise also, zudpi land, which is less than one hectare, can be treated as revenue land. Hence, there shouldn't be any problem. Some vested interests are working to grab the land,'' he said.
Talking to TOI on Wednesday, Patel said, "It's shocking that the department doesn't have a single document showing when the land was encroached upon. The information officer says that as a POR (primary offence report) was not filed against any person, they don't have any details.''
"We took up the issue with forest minister Babanrao Pachpute during his recent visit to the city. But no action has been taken so far. The Laxmi Nagar plot is not the only case. We have sought details of all forest land in Nagpur that has been encroached upon,'' the DSP leader said.
Department officials, however, said, the land was in their possession and is only used by nearby residents. There's no pucca construction on it and hence cannot be called as encroachment, they said, adding that a small patch of land is being used by the builder for the past 25 years but he has been issued notices.
The officials further said the builder has sought some time to construct a new entry point. "In 15 days, we would build a wall closing entry through the forest land,'' they said.
The officials said, "Not an inch of land has been encroached upon. The wall constructed under the MLA fund is protection to zudpi land. We have also sent proposals for constructing quarters, hostel for department employees' wards or an information centre at the said place.''
How can MLA-LAD money be utilized for constructing a temple ? Local RTI Activists must send query under RTI Act to District Magistrate's office to learn the detail of MLA -LAD fund utilization. Note : My posting is based on the fact that in my state (WB) - District Magistrate is responsible for MP LAD or MLA LAD development expenses. By reading MLA Fund - I have presumed that it is MLA local area developement (MLA LAD fund).