Compounding the crime

  • 14/06/2002

Compounding the crime   The Rani Nangal forest block story has a twist in the tail. The dam for which some land from the block was allotted to the irrigation department failed. Instead of returning the surplus land in the area to the forest department (FD), the irrigation department leased it out for five years to people from select communities. Upon the lapse of the lease, some of them sold the land to others. These innocent victims of fraud now stay in the clearances right in the middle of the forest. They too call it Rani Nangal village. The land is fertile and yields a good produce.

These people have ration cards and election identity cards. Some have electricity and a handful even possess telephones. M U Khan, forest ranger of the area, says, "This is forestland which the irrigation department wrongfully leased out and the lessee has illegitimately sold off.' But Abdul Khan, a resident of this fictitious village, points out: "We came from as far as Punjab. We paid money to the earlier owners to get this land. We have no lease papers to prove our case. We don't care whether it was once forest property or not. We have ration cards to prove that Rani Nangal is a village today.' Mukhtiar Singh, another villager, chips in, "Why would the telephone department draw cables up to this place and give me two telephone lines if this was not a legal village?'

M U Khan hopes that with the lid being blown off the Malviya fraud case, the subsequent media attention and the court's involvement, the

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