More than 20,000 acres of forest land has been encroached upon in various parts of the state, with farmers having ploughed the land for more than three decades in some cases, said Punjab Forest Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani on Tuesday.
Jayani said that with farmers occupying most of the areas, a new policy was required to reclaim the land. “Recently, we had freed 190 acres of encroached forest land in Machiwara area, but after farmers protested, we had to return a large part of the land. This is the problem in many areas. So I will be meeting the chief minster to frame a new policy on how to free the area and enhance greenery in the state.”
Jayani further said: “A compromise policy is the best option where encroachments have been done for decades and the forest department never took any effort to take the land back. In such cases, it will be suggested to the chief minister that a part of the land should remain with the encroachers and the rest should be reclaimed. This way, we will at least get something for afforestation.” The forest minister further feels that a amnesty scheme was required to regain encroached land.
After Machiwara, the forest department is now set to target Hambaran road in Ludhiana. Here, however, members of the Bharti Kisan Union claim they have been ploughing this land, which is part of a riverbed, for years together. Darshan Singh Kohli, general secretary of the union, said the forest department will never be allowed to acquire this land.