PM, CM in title clash

PM, CM in title clash Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madhya Pradesh (mp) chief minister Digvijay Singh are playing the blame game over the settlement of tribal communities' claims to forestland. It may be noted that elections to the mp legislative assembly are due later this year, and the state has a sizeable tribal population. So much so that their vote can make or mar a party's poll prospects.

Anticipating the premier's visit to mp's tribal-dominated Mandla district, Singh dashed off a letter to Vajpayee on June 14. He sought the pm's intervention in getting the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) to unconditionally settle the issue of tribal occupants' claims on forestland. The cm stressed that the encroachments the state government wanted to regularise were made before the passing of the Forest (Conservation) Act (fca) in 1980. Singh also raised the issue of transferring forest villages to the revenue department. He requested the pm to give an assurance to the people of Mandla on these matters.

Addressing a Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) rally on June 17, the pm said that the Union government had issued no-objection certificates and done the needful for transferring forest villages to the revenue department. He insisted that it was now the Congress-run state government's duty to give the patta (title deed) and issue the notification. Alluding to Singh's communications, Vajpayee said there was no point in sending "love letters'.

Singh despatched a reply on June 21. He also addressed the media, claiming that Vajpayee had "unknowingly committed a mistake' and that he had not been "briefed properly' on forest villages. He said the state had submitted a proposal in 1995 for regularising encroachments. "After protracted correspondence at different levels and a series of meetings', the moef conveyed its

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