Zudpi lands have never been notified as forests: Committee

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Jul 2018 11:10:56


By Kartik Lokhande,

The Government-appointed committee recommends that 86,409 hectares of ‘Zudpi Jungle’ lands should be brought out of the ambit of Forest Conservation Act ‘immediately’

The committee appointed to simplify the procedure for diversion of ‘Zudpi Jungle’ land for non-forest uses has come out with its report in which it has categorically stated that ‘Zudpi lands have never been notified as forests’. Quoting umpteen references, it has recommended to the State Government to formulate a strategy to convince the Centre to agree to treat 86,409 hectares of ‘Zudpi’ lands as revenue land. Else, it has added, State may consider approaching the Supreme Court by filing interlocutory application with a prayer that these lands do not attract the provisions of Forest Conservation Act.

The committee was formed last month by Revenue and Forest Department of State Government. It was formed as per the directions of Director General of Forests and Special Secretary, to State Revenue and Forest Department to submit a revised draft of simplified procedure for diversion of ‘Zudpi Jungle’ lands for non-forest usage. The directions were given in a meeting held on May 14 at New Delhi, regarding issues relating to complications in submitting proposals for diversion of ‘Zudpi Jungle’ lands under Forest Conservation Act. The committee headed by Anoop Kumar, Divisional Commissioner, held several meetings and referred to various documents, and submitted its report to Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister, a few days ago.

Sources told ‘The Hitavada’ that the committee held the ‘firm view’ that provisions of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 were ‘not applicable’ in respect of ‘Zudpi’ lands. It has recommended that entire 86,409 hectares of ‘Zudpi’ lands be considered as ‘Revenue’ lands and should be ‘immediately’ brought out of the ambit of Forest Conservation Act.

It has recommended to the State Government to formulate a strategy to convince the Central Government to treat the said ‘Zudpi’ lands as ‘Revenue’ lands. If the Centre continues with its stand of treating ‘Zudpi’ lands as ‘forest’, the State Government should consider filing an interlocutory application before the Supreme Court with a prayer that these lands do not attract the provisions of Forest Conservation Act.

In its report, the committee made clear observations that ‘Zudpi’ lands have ‘very poor potential of vegetative growth’ because soil strata does not support root systems of trees. ‘Zudpi’ lands are ‘traditionally grazing lands’ and are called as ‘Gairan, Gur Chaaran, E-class lands’ as per Maharashtra Land Revenue Code in other parts of Maharashtra.

It may be mentioned here that ‘Zudpi Jungle’ issue is restricted to Nagpur Division only which comprises six districts namely Nagpur, Wardha, Bhandara, Gondia, Chandrapur, and Gadchiroli. These were previously in Central Provinces during the British Raj, and covered under present-day state of Madhya Pradesh. The committee has mentioned that ‘Zudpi Jungle’ lands are ‘essentially non-forest lands and the usage of word jungle is colloquial/slang’.

Referring to the existing procedure for diversion of ‘Zudpi’ lands under Forest Conservation Act, the committee report states, “The procedure envisaged under Forest Conservation Act for deforestation resulted in slowing down of economic development by creating hurdles in implementation of major development projects and also basic, social infrastructure like education, health, roads, irrigation, and water supply.” Stating that of a total 86,409 hectares of ‘Zudpi’ lands, 27,507 hectares is under encroachment, 26,672 hectares under non-forestry use, and 32,229 is fragmented, the committee has recommended to the Central Government to give permission for diversion of these lands through a ‘consolidated proposal without insisting on individual proposals’.

Apart from making the abovesaid recommendations to the Central and State Governments, the committee has made several suggestions for simplification of the existing procedure. It has suggested that digitised map of whole taluka with topo-sheet as background should be prepared and details of all survey numbers in tabular form with single reference latitude/longitude to be appended with the map. It has stated that the ‘Geo digital map with geo-reference boundary in shape file prepared by using total stations of differential GPS with land use indicators in different colours’ carry ‘no relevance’ and may be done away with. The said maps carry ‘no relevance’ as it has already been principally agreed to divert these lands.

Further, the committee has recommended that the exercises like recording girth of trees over such lands should be done away with. As far as Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 is concerned, the committee has observed that the provisions are ‘not applicable’ to ‘Zudpi’ lands in question. Hence, it has recommended, requirement of FRA certificate and resolutions of Gram Sabha/Panchayat may be done away with. Also, instead of insisting on English translation of all 7/12 extracts, statements mentioning details of all survey numbers in tabular form and duly certified by Sub-Divisional Officer concerned, with Marathi 7/12 extracts should be considered for diversion proposals, it has added.


MLA Hostel, NIT Hq are on ‘Zudpi Jungle’ lands

The report, sources said, mentions that some of the most important buildings in Nagpur city ‘have been existing on fragmented Zudpi lands’. “No purpose is served by imposing the elaborate procedure of diversion in such cases,” the report states.

The list of these prominent buildings and landmarks includes MLA Hostel, Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) Headquarters, Ravi Nagar Government Colony, Deekshabhoomi, official residences of High Court judges, MHADA Quarters in Ajni (dating back to 1970), Ambazari cemetery, NIT swimming pool, Ambazari garden, Ring Road portion in Bhamti, Indian Air Force installations, installations of Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, CP Club, BSNL staff quarters, Central Citrus Research Institute, firing range at Borgaon, graveyard and cemeteries in various parts, Gorewada water treatment plant, Police Headquarters, Eidgah in Bhandewadi, etc.