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Won’t Allow A KGF-2, Assert Burhanpur Officials

6000 hectares of forest land have been freed from encroachers in a 17-day-long joint operation of police and forest officials in Burhanpur. Wide-spread Encroachment Preventing trenches, rapid afforestation, and intense patrolling are now on the Forest Department’s agenda. The anti-encroachment operation was planned by then DFO Burhanpur Anupam Sharma, a 2018-batch IFS officer, who has since been transferred. This is the second and concluding part of our story on Operation KGF.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Madhya Pradesh’s Burhanpur Forest Department isn’t sitting idle after freeing the 2000 hectares of land from the encroachers. To reclaim the encroached land, the forest department is digging anti-encroachment trenches around the freed land. 

The soil coming out from these trenches would be used to sow some fast-growing seeds and recreate the majestic forest, it once used to be. They hope that even wildlife might return to this area, once the planted trees grow into a thick forest. 

Indian Masterminds spoke to the then DFO Burhanpur, Anupam Sharma, IFS, about how encroachers managed to construct an entire colony inside the forest.

Several Burhanpur forest officials patrolling inside the encroached forest

Tree-felling and encroachment was going on in Burhanpur for the past 20 years. But, it picked pace in Dec’22- Jan’23 when villagers started building a whole colony inside the forest. Even local villagers were not happy with the situation. They kept reporting such nefarious activities to the police and forest department. The forest department did try to remove the encroachments but was attacked by the encroachers.

Some of the arrested encroachers along with their axes

The situation changed when Mr Sharma took over as the DFO, Burhanpur on February 21 this year. He started taking concrete steps to check tree-felling and remove the encroachment. He started a dialogue with them through Joint Management Committees comprising villagers and Forest officials, increased patrolling and announced cash rewards to informers. He got the forest vehicles repaired and took additional vehicles on rentals. He bought drones with night vision cameras for better round-the-clock surveillance and safety kits for forest officials.

Seed dispersal around Anti-Encroachment trenches in Burhanpur forest

The forest department established checkpoints to check the movement of encroachers. Attempts were made to remove the encroachment from Jhiri on February 23 and March 9, Ghagharla on March 11, Nepanagar on March 27-28 and Bodarli on April 2. But, most of these attempts, particularly the one on 11th March in Ghagharla Forests, were met with violent resistance from the encroachers.

Surveillance using Hi-Tech Night Vision Drones

Forest officials however arrested 13 encroachers at Ghagharla checking point and arrested 13 others on charges of poaching Pangolin on April 3. A few days later, the Encroachers attacked the Nepanagar police station on April 7, beating up the three police personnel present there and getting their accomplice freed from police custody forcibly.

That proved to be the proverbial last straw. Yet, it required the mobilisation of 1000-1200 policemen, STF, not only from Burhanpur but from six neighbouring districts as well to get this KGF-style settlement cleared and April 8 and 9. Between April 9 and 20, forest officials seized 550 cubic metres of timber worth more than Rs five crore, said Mr Sharma.

Seizing the timber

FOUR-STAGE

The encroachment undertook its activities in four stages. First, they chopped the tree then they cut it into small logs. Next, they either burnt down the wood or used the timber to construct their wooden houses. The third stage was uprooting the stumps with a JCB, which they had already done in some areas.

They, however, couldn’t complete the fourth stage – ploughing the land with tractors for cultivation. They managed to plough only some part of the forest land.  

Seizure from timber from the destroyed Tapris

THREE CIRCLES

They had three rings of workers. The innermost circle had about 150-200 persons cutting down trees, removing the stumps and ploughing the land. They were cutters. The second ring consisting of about 100 armed persons was on the periphery of the forest. They used to attack any police or forest person or contingent trying to enter their citadel.

They used to have bows, arrows, lathis and huge catapults (gofans). The outermost ring consisted of some 50-60 highly mobile informants and couriers. They would go out sniffing about any action or movement by the forest or police department. They used motorbikes for travelling and informing the gang of any impending action. 

Encroachers caught with their ‘weapons’

But, with Operation KGF involving over 1000 police personnel that lasted for 17 days, the encroachers have been completely removed. The forest department is formulating strategies to reclaim the land and is also going to intensify patrolling in the area, so as to locate any such further attempts. They are adamant that they won’t allow anyone to encroach on the forest land again so that there is never a KGF-2.

Incidentally, Mr Anupam Sharma, was on April 21 transferred out of Burhanpur – which lies on the MP-Maharashtra border. 


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