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Parliament panel probe into island encroach

Calcutta, Dec. 20: A 42-member parliamentary standing committee comprising the forest, environment, science and technology ministries will visit Jambudwip off the Sundarbans on Sunday for an on-the-spot inquiry into complaints of encroachment on the island by fishermen.

The island is within the reserve forest area governed by the forest and environment laws.

The state forest and fisheries departments are at loggerheads over the encroachment issue.

When fishermen had entered a creek adjoining the island to seek shelter from a cyclone on November 12, forest guards had driven them back to the rough seas thinking they were encroachers. Several trawlers capsized that day. Two fishermen were found dead and 10 are still missing.

The incident snowballed when sharp reactions from several international agencies poured into the Prime Minister’s Office.

The issue went to the Supreme Court, which set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the alleged encroachment by fishermen and the “high-handedness” of the forest guards.

Controversy over the rights of fishermen to use a portion of the island to dry their catch between October and February began when the forest department asked its guards to drive them out. Forest minister Jogesh Barman had said the presence of 12,000 fishermen in the Sundarbans core area was disturbing its ecology. The apex court had earlier asked the states to drive out those living without permit inside reserve forest areas.

Cop beheaded

A policeman, Hemanta Burman, 35, on duty at Alipurduar station, was beheaded and his companion seriously injured when a gang of four attacked them tonight. The injured constable has been taken to the sub-divisional hospital.

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