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HomeNews Reports782 hectares of railways land under encroachment, 6.84 hectares retrieved: Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

782 hectares of railways land under encroachment, 6.84 hectares retrieved: Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

A Rajya Sabha question asked if the Railways had estimated the revenue loss as a result of the encroachment of its territory and what corrective measures it had taken for the same.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated that of the up to 4.86 lakh hectares of land that the Railways owns, 782 hectares are encroached upon and that in 2022–23 (up till December 31) around 6.84 hectares of land was retrieved.

As of March 31, 2022, Indian Railways owned 4.86 lakh hectares of land in total. The largest landholding is held by the Northeast Frontier Railway Zone, which is based in Assam and includes certain districts in eastern Bihar and northern West Bengal. Northern Railways (44,005.53 hectares) and Southeastern Railways (42,850.92 hectares) are the next largest landholders.

A Rajya Sabha question asked if the Railways had estimated the revenue loss as a result of the encroachment of its territory and what corrective measures it had taken for the same.

In response, Minister Vaishnaw said that encroachments occasionally reduced both line capacity and throughput since they created bottlenecks, safety risks during train operations, and maintenance challenges. This ultimately had an impact on the Railways’ revenue, which was feasible to estimate.

It is notable that the Railways issued a Master Circular in 2022 that established a framework for the administration of railway land, including the leasing of the same for operations related to railway working, public infrastructure, government offices, hospitals, and Kendriya Vidyalayas.

“The Railways conduct routine surveys to identify encroachments and take steps for their removal in order to prevent/remove encroachments. Temporary encroachments are cleared away with the help of the Railway Protection Force. According to the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act of 1971, action is taken for old encroachments when the party is not amenable to persuasion,” the reply stated.

Railway land area under encroachment (Image via indianrailways.gov.in)

Process of clearing encroachments on Railway lands

The removal of old or permanent structures frequently leads to disputes. The Ministry of Railways follows a predetermined procedure since maintaining law and order is a state responsibility and no government entity is allowed to willfully demolish human settlements, even if they are on their property.

Railways take action under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 for older encroachments if the settlers are not receptive to persuasion (PPE Act, 1971).

The state authorities and Railways send eviction notices to the settlers when persuasion, negotiation, and all other attempts toward a peaceful resolution are unsuccessful. In many such cases including the recent Haldwani encroachment case the encroachers first get a temporary halt to the demolition or eviction effort while the courts hear both sides. The state government and the police aid in carrying out the actual eviction of unauthorized occupants.

79 acres of railway land encroached in Banbhoolpura, Haldwani

Notably, on February 3, the minister of railways stated that 79 acres of railway land had been encroached upon in Banbhoolpura, Uttarakhand’s Haldwani and that the ministry has certified copies of land records that had been verified by the state’s revenue department to substantiate its claim on the land.

According to a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “Indian Railways owns about 79 acres of Railway land at Banbhoolpura, Haldwani in Uttarakhand.”

When asked for evidence of the Railways’ claim to the land, Vaishnaw responded, “Railway has certified copy of land records, i.e. Khasra, Khatauni & land plans officially verified by State Revenue department.”

The State Government and Railway completed a joint survey of the area in 2017, he continued, and a copy of that survey is also accessible.

The minister stated that 29 acres of encroached railway land were initially claimed by Railways. However, he added, “79 acres of railway land were found encroached during the joint survey by State Government and Railways in 2017”.

Vaishnaw added that Railways had submitted two affidavits to the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital about the matter.

He stated, “Railways has filed two affidavits in the matter in 2015 and 2017 respectively at Hon’ble High Court, Nainital. The affidavits are dated 04.11.2015 and 05.01.2017.”

Moreover, the minister added that in these affidavits, the Uttarakhand High Court was asked to issue directions to the District Administration to assist the Railways to identify the encroachers and provide force during the eviction processes.

Following this, protests erupted against the clearance of illegal encroachments on railway lands following the High Court order. The protests started after Uttarakhand High Court, on December 26, 2022, ordered the authorities to immediately evict the illegal occupants to vacate the land owned by the Indian Railways.  

The Supreme Court, however, in January had put a stay on the matter of the removal of encroachment from Indian Railways land in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, saying that a workable arrangement has to be devised. Staying the Uttarakhand High Court order to evict more than 4000 families who are illegally encroaching on railway land, the apex court bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and AS Oka also barred any new construction or development on the land till the matter is resolved.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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