KOLHAPUR: Agricultural land that was restricted from sale or transfer in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in the Solapur district was freed after a government resolution passed to this effect on March 12.
The government resolution not only enables the sale and purchase of land but its division as well. This had completely stopped after the Wildlife Protection Act was effective in the area for the last few decades. A few weeks ago, the state trimmed the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary’s area from 1,229 sq km to 366 sq km. The state also freed most of the private land and has allowed trade rights as well. The forest department land was retained for conservation of the bird and its habitat.
Tukaram Mundhe, the Solapur district collector, said, “My office received communication from the state regarding its decision to remove the sanctuary tag from the tehsils such as Karmala, Mohol and north Solapur. Farmers can now trade their land or convert it to non-agricultural as well. The decision has been pending for the last few decades.”
Mundhe held a meeting on Thursday at his office with employees from the sub-registrar office, forest officials from the sanctuary and revenue officials. The sub-registrar office keeps records of property deals. The forest and revenue department officials will be addressing farmers’ grievances and their pending work regarding the newly freed land.
According to the revised decision, the state has mentioned that it will remove the wildlife remark from the sanctuary’s 7/12 land record receipt. The revenue department maintains the receipt which shows property rights and other information of a particular piece of land.
The Union government formed the Great Indian Bustard sanctuary in 1979 with a total land area of 8,496 sq km. Land deals were disallowed in the area though farmers were allowed to continue agricultural practice. However, the state had put reservations on excess land, rarely used by the Great Indian Bustards and led to opposition from localites.
In 2008, the land area was trimmed to 1,229.24 sq km. Farmers and local leaders from Solapur district continued oppose the restrictions on the excess land. The Centre, along with state officials, once again reviewed the status of the birds and finally restricted the sanctuary size to 366 sq km and the rest of the land was freed.
Shriram Dhiwade, a senior activist from Mohol tehsil, has been following up on the issue with state and Union governments for a long time. “It may be possible that many farmers do not sell the land now, but they are allowed to do so is also an achievement of our struggle for last so many decades. The first change would be the further division of land and its change of status as many families have expanded over the last 30 years, but could not do their land division properly. We hope that district revenue officials will soon remove the protected land tag, otherwise, the problem will continue,” Dhiwade said.