Imphal: As many as 14 unauthorised shops were dismantled as part of an eviction drive carried out by the state forest department at Guigailong area of Manipur’s Imphal West district on Tuesday.
The drive was conducted to remove illegal encroachers settling in the reserve forest areas of the state. It met with protests from locals as well as shopkeepers.
“The drive was part of the continuous process of detecting new encroachments and evicting them to protect the reserve forest areas,” said divisional forest officer RK Amarjit Singh.
Locals, on the other hand, alleged that the drive was carried out within a short period of notice from the administration and, that too, without an alternative arrangement.
While expressing their disappointment towards the treatment by the administration, Ayao Pheirei, one of the evicted shopkeepers, said, “For more than 10 years, we are living here. We haven’t encroached any land of theirs as you can see that all the shops were set up without crossing the forest land border.”
“I am very much disappointed with the administration the way they treated us. If they want to perform their duty fairly, they must treat all encroachers equally,” she added.
“We had already given a show-cause notice and they (encroachers) have also given their reply. So, after following all the procedures laid down in Indian Forest Act 1971, we are carrying it out this drive,” said conservator of forests L Joykumar Singh.
Clarifying the encroachers’ claim of early settlement, forest officials said that it has been detected through satellite imagery that those were recent encroachers.
The officials also said that the department will continue its eviction drive across the state including, Langol, Tarung, Iroisemba, Andro and Kakching Khunou, among others.
The Forest Rights Act, 2006 covers the tribal settlement before 2005 and requires the tribal people be given an alternative settlement before eviction. Those settling in the forest areas after 2005 are not covered by the Act; hence there are no provisions for alternative settlement for these encroachers.