Demolished on january 18-19, 2006, the administration and the municipal authorities of Sawai Madhopur district in Rajasthan demolished 25 illegal properties around the Ranthambore national park. These properties had violated the Rajasthan Land Revenue Act, 1956.

The structures razed included Anokhi, a shop run on the premises of Fateh Singh Rathore, a former forest department official; Karigar, another establishment on his property; the White House, a guesthouse run by his son, Goverdhan, and daughter-in-law, Usha. Another property allegedly in the possession of Goverdhan Singh, a number of shops, eating joints and a farmhouse owned by Bharat Kapur, based in Delhi, were also pulled down.

"We had identified a total of 32 structures that were violating section 90 (a) of the Land Revenue Act,' says additional district magistrate Vishram Meena. The section bans commercial activities on designated agricultural land unless a change of land use is first obtained from competent authorities.

"We were getting a lot of complaints about agricultural land being used for non-agricultural purposes,' says Meena. "Many had undertaken illegal commercial activity within 500 metres of the forest area,' reveals another administration official. "Two months back we decided to undertake a survey. A committee headed by the naib-tehsildar of the revenue department was formed,' Meena added.

The survey revealed numerous violations. In December 2005, the authorities issued notices to owners of 88 properties. Owners who had obtained land use change submitted their papers. Subsequently, in the first week of January, final orders were issued to demolish 32 properties without requisite documents. Many local residents have welcomed the demolitions.

The guesthouse run by Goverdhan Singh and his wife is widely advertised on several wildlife tourism websites. But it apparently did not have a change of land use clearance and was demolished. When Goverdhan Singh and Padmini Rathore (Fateh Singh's daughter) tried to intervene, they were arrested for creating public nuisance.

In December 2002, the state government had passed a directive banning the change of land use for properties falling within 500 metres of the forest. Down To Earth had reported that the order was being rampantly flouted (

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