River exploitation continues as court case remains undecided for the last five years
KAPILVASTU, April 27: Crusher plant operators along the Bandganga riverbank in Kapilvastu district have been reportedly influencing the court to delay the decision on cases related to the encroachment of the land previously occupied by the river.
Local crusher plant operators had filed a case at the Supreme Court (SC), challenging the government decision to transfer the ownership of the "encroached" land to the government scrapping private ownership of the land.
Three individuals had registered 10 hectares of riverbank land under their ownership mysteriously at the land revenue office 38 years ago. According to the district land revenue office, the then land revenue chief of the district, Sete Gharti, had registered the land under private ownership of three individuals in 1981. The three owners of the land - Nilkumari Upadhyayeni, Govinda Prasad Paudel and Dharma Raj Upadhyaya - later sold the land to different individuals, according to District Land Revenue Officer Rishiram Paudel. Multiple crusher plants came into operation in the area and some of them are owned by former lawmakers and politicians, said sources.
The issue of public land encroachment came into light after a local social activist, Bhim Prasad Sapkota, filed a complaint with the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and other agencies concerned, demanding the registration of the public land under private ownership be scrapped. After three years of investigation, the CIAA in 2014 directed the government to scrap the registration of the land in the name of private individuals as it found that the land had been illegally registered in the name of private individuals.
As soon as the ownership of the land was transferred to the government, in October 2014, the crusher operators and the "land owners" rushed to the court, demanding that the government decision be revoked. But with the court not taking any decision on the case for five years, the crusher plant operators have been freely running their business in the encroached land. “The crusher operators have been influencing the court to postpone the hearing on the case so that they can make more money excavating the riverbank,” said a source close to the crusher operators.
The land has been sold multiple times after "privatization" and there are at least 36 owners at present including crusher companies and individuals. However the land owners claim that the riverbank used to be their own land which the river claimed, turning it into riverbank.