11/01/2023. The North-Lakhimpur district administration managed to recover 250 hectares of land from encroachers in the Pabho reserve forest on Tuesday, January 10.
A variety of heavy vehicles, tractors, and other equipment were used in the operation. 600 personnel of Assam Police and Central Paramilitary Forces along with local administrative officers were present during the operation.
In the eviction drive, fish ponds, farms with crops, remains of shifted houses, etc. have all been destroyed. The roads constructed under MGNREGA in encroached areas have also been demolished and leveled.
The power supply in the area has been completely cut off and the wires and poles have been removed.
There were around 299 houses in the evicted area of Pavo forest land, including PMAY houses and Anganwadi centers that had already been vacated by residents prior to the drive.
According to the Assam Police, the eviction drive was peacefully completed without any untoward incidents. On January 11 i.e. today, the eviction drive will continue in the Mahghuli areas covering 200 hectares of encroached land and 202 families.
The district administration was found restricting the entry of people and media into the encroached land during the eviction drive.
Pav forest under the Harmti forest range in Lakhimpur district was declared a reserve forest in 1941. It originally had 4,628.88 hectares of forest land, but much of the forest land has been washed away in the river Ranganadi, due to the changing trajectory and its adjoining tributaries.
According to the forest department, only 29 hectares of the existing 2,560.25 hectares of reserved forests are completely free from encroachments. The forest department has been largely blamed for the prolonged encroachment in the Pabho Reserve Forest. Many evictees alleged that the forest department had collected funds several times in the past to allow them to stay in the area and cultivate crops.
Meanwhile, the district unit of AAMSU staged a protest against the eviction drive. The students’ union alleged that the eviction drive was only against religious minority communities and protected other communities.
The Lakhimpur district administration and the forest department have set up temporary accommodation on a land of around three bighas in the evicted area so that 83 evicted families can stay temporarily. However, there is no provision for basic amenities for those evicted on that land.