Chikkaballapura: Range Forest Officer (RFO), Srilakshmi, of the Sidlaghatta territorial range in Chikkaballapura has done what other officers here could not. She has evicted farmers encroaching on 25 hectares of reserve land in Vardanayakanahalli in face of threats and protests and, what’s more she plans to recover more of the forest’s property lost to encroachers.
The recovered land is part of the Patrahalli state forests spread across 927 acres. An earlier attempt by an RFO in 2009-2010 to evict the farmers from it came a cropper in the face of strong opposition from their leaders. But a determined Srilakhmi began working on evicting the farmers in March 2019 after verification of their documents in support of their claim to the land. She soon came up against opposition as 30 farmers started to plough the land with tractors at midnight one day even before a joint report on the land survey could be made public.
There were also protests against the RFO and threats from local farmers' leaders, but she did not buckle under the pressure.
The joint survey report from the forest and revenue departments, when it was submitted, came as a shot in the arm for her as it clearly stated that the land belonged to the state forest department and had been encroached on. Wasting no time, the RFO began to plant fruit bearing trees on it to keep the encroachers at bay.
“Planting of the saplings has almost been done,” said Ms Srilakshmi, adding that another 100 acres that had been encroached would be recovered soon.