Huge land scam in Goa, says forest department

April 29th, 2009 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, April 29 (IANS) The forest department in Goa has alleged that vast tracts of reserve forest land is being converted into private property in collusion with revenue department officials, sources said Wednesday.
In a letter addressed to the then chief secretary J.P. Singh Feb 26, the chief conservator of forest implored the state government to act immediately in order to save land from being illegally appropriated.

Four cases are currently under the scanner of the forest department. One such case involves six million sq metres of reserve forest land in the Netravali wildlife sanctuary in South Goa that is allegedly being illegally converted into private property.

The sanctuary is in Margoa, which is Chief Minister Digambar Kamat’s constituency.

“We apprehend that 60 lakh (6 million) sq metres of land in Netravali wildlife sanctuary is being illegally mutated by the deputy collector of Sanguem. We request you to act immediately in order to save the land and prevent colossal loss for the state government,” the letter written by Chief Conservator of Forest Shashi Kumar said.

Sources in the forest department said that earlier cautions to the ‘mamlatdar’ (revenue official) of Sanguem and the deputy collector had not evoked any reaction from the revenue department, which is processing the mutation at express speed.

“This is not the only instance. In Nakkeri village in Quepem taluka, plots of proposed reserve forest area are being converted by private parties with the help of the local revenue department officials,” sources said.

The biggest case of mutation of government land involves a firm named Timblo Irmao Private Limited, which laid claim to 45 million sq metres of forest department’s land in Netravali forest area, which is ringed by low grade iron ore mining operations.

“The forest department is contesting the case. An appeal is presently pending with the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court after the company won at a lower court trial,” sources said.

Leader of opposition in the state assembly Manohar Parrikar said that the forest department land was being fraudulently usurped by private individuals backed by politicians for the last 20 years.

“This is not a new phenomenon. Crores of sq metres of land has been whisked away from under the eyes of the forest department,” he said.

Parrikar demanded a full fledged probe into the Netravali wildlife sanctuary land scam.

“The revenue department officials are fully involved in this scam. Their role in this scam needs to be investigated thoroughly,” Parrikar told IANS.

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