Forest Minister elaborates response on purported land encroachment by IPCA

Minister of Forest and Environment Department, Karma Loday Bhutia addressed a press conference today at the conference hall of Forest Department. The Minister was joined by ACS cum PCCF Forest M.L. Shrivastava and senior officers of the Department, Secretary Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department, DC Namchi, and representatives of IPCA Pharmaceuticals in South Sikkim. The press conference was organised to address the ongoing issue regarding alleged land encroachment by IPCA Pharmaceutical company in Melli under Namchi district. The press conference aimed to explain in detail the steps taken by Forest Department in coordination with Land Revenue Department to address the issue.

Bhutia, in his opening remarks said that the press conference cum interaction programme has been convened to transparently address the ongoing issue regarding the alleged land encroachment.He reiterated that the Forest Department immediately got into action after the issue came to the fore. He said that the joint field visit conducted on 25th April, 2022 was to intricately understand the situation on the ground and to listen to the deliberations from all concerned quarters. CF (Territorial), Karma Legshey explained through a power point presentation the sequence of events leading up to the present situation since the RTI was filed by an individual on 22nd March, 2022. He explained that the Forest Department was already acting on the case since the month of January, two months before the RTI was filed. Subsequently, DFO (Territorial), Namchi, Peggyla Tshering made a detailed presentation about the action taken by the Forest Department since the month of January, 2022. She informed the house that the Range Officer (Melli) had taken cognisance of the illegal muck dumping by IPCA pharmaceutical company without prior permission, and a case was registered against the company on the 20th of January, 2022, and the work was immediately stopped and the vehicles and materials were seized.

The DFO (T) further explained that the other land under question was referred to the Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department to ascertain if it is belonged to the Forest Department or not. She explained that as per existing land records, a substantial portion of the land falls under a private holding. She said that the dispute is presently under the consideration of the Land Revenue Department. This was followed by a detailed presentation by an official from IPCA Pharmaceutical company explaining the backdrop of the issue under discussion. District Collector, Namchi, M. Bharani Kumar in his address gave a brief overview about survey settlement operation of land records. Regarding the issue concerning IPCA Pharmaceuticals, he explained that a part of the holding was given on lease to IPCA Pharmaceuticals by two private individuals namely Bhakta Bahadur Pradhan and Late Dal Bahadur Chettri. He informed that the total Revenue land is 3.042 hectares, out of which 0.79 hectares is diverted forest land. Therefore, the remaining land under consideration is 3.832 hectares or 9.46 acres. He said that since there is a dichotomy between the 1950-52 and 1978-80 land survey settlement records, it has been a challenge to come to the exact figure. He informed that a team has been constituted to demarcate the land under dispute.Secretary, Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Sarala Rai informed that the new survey to be conducted at the land under question will be done with hi-end technology to ensure accuracy. She maintained that the Department is doing its best to address the issue despite of changes in the figures in the land records over the years.

ACS cum PCCF, Forest Department, M.L. Shrivastava in his address reiterated that forest land is sacrosanct and there are enough legal provisions to protect forest land against any encroachment. Shrivastava briefly touched upon the concrete action taken by the Forest Department in coordination with Land Revenue Department in connection with the issue of alleged land encroachment by IPCA Pharmaceuticals in Melli. He added that all necessary steps are being taken to come to a logical conclusion.Thereafter, the house was opened for an interactive session wherein questions were put forth by members of various NGOs and civil society members invited for the press conference and interaction programme. The questions were responded to by the Minister for Forest and concerned officers.

Source: IPR, Government of Sikkim

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