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Google hitch dogs Saranda - Row over maps for CRPF camps

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  • Published 29.01.12

Jamshedpur, Jan. 28: Maps and their source are at the core of a dispute that is holding back CRPF camps and helipads in Saranda where a slew of development initiatives are to be launched once security forces are in place at the former Maoist hub.

The state forest department will not accept maps from Google Earth, even though these are satellite images. Only toposheets, or topographic sheets, that are detailed local area maps to scale published by Survey of India, will do.

Hence, West Singhbhum police will now have to redo its proposal for seven of 24 camps that are to be set up in the forests, delaying the process further.

With the Centre breathing down the neck of the Arjun Munda government to fast track preparatory infrastructure, this unseemly row is unlikely to please the architect of the Saranda Action Plan, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who is scheduled visit the state on Monday.

Setting up the CRPF camps and helipads is crucial. For, it is only after the CRPF are deployed that the development initiatives can be pursued under the Saranda plan.

In their second proposal for the seven camps, submitted to the forest department for clearance on January 13, West Singhbum police used maps downloaded from Google Earth. But these have been rejected.

“Maps downloaded from Google Earth isn’t acceptable as it is a private entity. We accept only toposheets for forest maps as it is prepared by Survey of India, a government organisation,” said K.K. Tiwary, DFO, Saranda.

West Singhbhum SP Arun Kumar Singh is in the know of the setback and attributed the use of maps from Google Earth to “security reasons”. He, however, declined to elaborate.

According to forest department sources, the police had initially submitted proposals for all 24 CRPF camp sites along with toposheets. But, they were told to submit fresh proposals after the department rejected seven of those sites for various reasons.

In their revised proposal, the West Singhbhum police submitted maps from Google Earth. The forest department refused to accept these.

According to the DFO of Saranda, another important factor was to ensure that the land identified for the camps did not belong to tribals under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. And that has to be certified by the deputy commissioner’s office.

“We have forwarded the proposals for 17 camps to the state forest department last month and informed the DC’s office. But it is still lying with the deputy commissioner for want of that certification,” Tiwary said.

West Singhbhum DC K. Srinivasan said they were on the job. The district administration, he said, had already met gram sabhas in all the 17 sites.

“Now, we will hold meetings with the Saranda DFO and welfare officer for approving the 17 sites,” he said.