With liabilities against the Army on account of using forest land in J&K touching Rs 20 crore, the high-powered Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) headed by Chief Secretary has directed the force to clear the outstanding amount.
According to official documents in possession of this newspaper, the FAC in its meeting on October 3 directed the Army authorities to foot the bill raised against it for being permitted to utilize the forest land in different parts of the State.
“Meanwhile Army authorities may be requested to start reconciliation and make the payment of outstanding amount due in previously sanctioned cases,” reads the minutes of the 90th FAC meeting chaired by Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma.
The J&K government is seeking payment of Rs 20.82 crore from Army for clearing 37 proposals submitted by it for using the forest land.
The panel – which had earlier decided against sanctioning fresh requests of Army for using forest land – has decided to lift the embargo following the intervention at the highest level. “The Committee directed that Indents given by Army may be processed,” the minutes read.
In 2013, the panel had decided against sanctioning fresh cases of 12 agencies and departments including Army until they clear the outstanding amount.
“Proposals of these agencies should not be put up before the committee until outstanding dues are cleared,” the 79th FAC meeting held on September 13, 2013, decided.
The issue had also come up for discussion during the high-level Civil-Military Liaison Conference chaired by Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in September.
During the meeting, the State government had directed the Army to clear the bill. “It was agreed that the Army would take the required measures to clear the outstanding dues amounting to about Rs 20 crore concerning 37 cases enabling the State government to proceed further in the matter. However, CS may look into the most immediate requirements of the Army on case-to-case basis,” the CMLC decided.
Under the J&K Forest (Conservation) Act, 1997, the State Government allows departments and agencies to use forest land for non-forestry purposes. However, the propriety and legal status of the said land remains unchanged.