Close on the heels of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's reported directive to the police to not provide protection to anti-encroachment drives against tribals, state Forest minister Choudhary Lal Singh today said the directions of J&K High Court would be followed to vacate encroached forest land. Earlier, triggering a major political controversy, Mufti directed police and district administrations to not provide protection to anti-encroachment drives by government departments against tribals thereby putting to halt drives in Jammu city being carried out on the direction of the High Court. However, the Forest Minister soon called a high level meeting of officers and issued them directives in this regard. The minister directed Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) to prepare lists of officials or private persons involved in encroaching forest land and submit a report within a week for further action under the Forest Department Act. Singh said the Forest department has rich resources and these have to be safeguarded. He said the government has set up a demarcation committee for checking the activities of encroachers. Significantly, Mufti heads a PDP-BJP coalition in the state.
While the chief minister leads PDP, Singh belongs to the BJP. A prominent lawyer of Supreme Court of India Ankur Sharma yesterday had termed Mufti's directive as not only "immunity" to encroachers in Jammu with a design to change the demography of Jammu, Samba, Kathua and Udhampur districts. Jammu Development Authority (JDA), revenue and forest departments are undertaking encroachment drives in large chunk of encroached forest lands. Earlier, the chief minister had directed the officers that till a formal Tribal Policy is formulated and the tribal population shall not be disturbed without the approval obtained from Tribal Affairs department, according to a functionary.
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