Former Haryana CM Devi Lal wanted Morni Hills to be developed as a world-class tourist spot. But now, a large chunk of town’s land is in illegal possession of VVIPs while large-scale construction on encroached land has destroyed the town’s pristine charm, writes Pawan Kumar Bansal
Such was the beauty of Morni hills, situated at a height of 1,267 meters, an offshoot of Shivalik Range in Himalayas near Chandigarh in Panchkula district of Haryana, that thirty six years ago, Devi Lal after taking oath as Chief Minister of Haryana spent a week with his family in the quaint town and ran the government from there.
He also gave directions to develop it as a world –class tourist spot. But much water has flown under the bridge since then. A large chunk of land in the picturesque town is in illegal possession of VVIPs and large scale construction activities on farm houses of these VVIPs have destroyed its pristine beauty and charm.
The beauty of Morni hills lies in its lush greenery and diverse flora and fauna. The hills are adorned with dense forests of pine and Sal trees, providing a serene and refreshing ambience. One of the main attractions of Morni hills is the Morni Fort, which stands as a silent witness to the region’s rich history and architectural heritage.
But the town’s beauty has also drawn land sharks and VVIPs, who have developed illegal farm houses and construction activity has destroyed its beauty. Shockingly, the Forest department who is the custodian of land as it is a reserved forest has miserably failed to check the illegal construction.
According to an affidavit filed by the Haryana government in Punjab and Haryana High Court responding to a writ filed by activist Vijay Bansal, challenging the illegal constructions , as many as 656.64 acre land of reserved forest is in illegal possession of private persons . Although the figure given by the government is challenged by Vijay Bansal, who has alleged that about ten thousand acre land is in illegal possession and the process is still going on. According to the affidavit, 3101.77 acre land of private people is under the possession of forest Department Haryana. Bansal regretted that the Forest department has so far not taken any steps for taking the encroached land back from these VVIPs.
Shockingly for demarcation of land in hills there is no competent revenue officer available in Haryana. District Revenue Officer, Panchkula, in status report filed in Punjab and Haryana High Court has recommended that before taking any decision for revenue settlement, a team shall be sent to Shimla for gathering detailed information regarding the steps taken for the revenue settlement by Himachal Pardesh because no competent revenue officer is available in Haryana for carrying settlement work in hilly areas of Haryana.
Efforts to elicit the version of Additional Chief Secretary, Forests , Vinit Garg and Jagdish Chander, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Haryana, on the issue bore no fruit as they didn’t respond to text message sent on their mobile to know as to what steps have been taken for the removal of illegal encroachments. Jagdish Chander asked to contact Anant Pandey, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests ,who didn’t respond.
Coming back to the beauty of the Morni which the government must preserve, it must be mentioned that the local culture of the region adds to the beauty of Morni hills as the warm hospitality of the locals and their traditional lifestyles make visitors feel welcomed and connected to the essence of the place. In conclusion, the beauty of Morni lies not only in its natural grandeur but also in the sense of tranquillity and serenity it offers.
So, the Haryana government must make sincere efforts to preserve this gift of nature.