' Delhi cops sit pretty as land mafia eats into ridge forests'.
IF YOU thought a city desperately gasping for breath would stir some manner of sympathy in its people, at the very least those entrusted with its security, think again.
The gravity of the fact that the World Health Organisation has labelled Delhi the most polluted city, a reality aided in no small part by its depleting forest cover, seems to be lost on the Delhi Police.
Locked in a battle against a strengthening land mafia, the Delhi Forest Department has alleged that the police's indifference to their complaints has tipped the scales in favour of encroachers eating their way through wide swathes of the ecologically sensitive Delhi Ridge forests.
In one case last month, they say, the police kept turning a deaf ear to their complaints before their persistence stirred them into action. Not that a formal complaint helped though. Forest department officials allege the land mafia is still carrying out construction on their land.
" We have been trying to secure forests in the city," a senior official of the department's south forest division said explaining the sequence of events. " Our department recently proposed developing a new city forest. When our officials visited the area, which is government territory and falls under the jurisdiction of the Mehrauli Police Station, we discovered illegal construction thriving under the watch and with the help of the police," the official added.
When they confronted the police, they reportedly brushed aside the complaint at first.
South forest division deputy range officer Vishawnath confronted the police with specifics. " A person, Pawan, is forcefully and illegally con- structing buildings in Neb Sarai's village number 52," he said in his complaint.
Again, apathy was all he got.
Added Vishwanath, " When our team reached the spot and discovered the illegal construction, we made a PCR call but to no avail. The forest department approached the Mehrauli Police on July 9, 18 and 24." A complaint was finally registered on the 26th. " But the construction continues unabated to date," the official said.
In another case, forest officials identified the defaulter as one Brahm Pandit and accused him of grabbing ridge land in Neb Sarai area's lane number 37.
These cases are just two of several incidents of land encroachment discovered by the forest department in the past few months.
Officials say the 6,200- hectare southern area of the sensitive Delhi Ridge, also known as the Capital's Green Lungs, attract encroachers for their vast real estate potential amid soaring land rates in Delhi. Helpless against the growing encroachment on ecologically sensitive land and an apathetic police, the department of forest is now planning to initiate talks with the Delhi Police brass, including Commissioner B. S. Bassi, to rein in the mafia.
" The forest department can't deploy a force of its own to secure the area. It is the responsibility of the local police, especially places like Delhi, where forests constitute only around 5 per cent," an official said, " We will report the indifference of the local police to their seniors."
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