The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday approved the setting up of an anti-land mafia task force to check rampant land grabbing in the state, fulfilling a key poll promise of the ruling BJP.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the state Cabinet here chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
"The cabinet has approved the setting up of anti-land mafia task force in the state. It will identify land grabbers in two months and strict action will be initiated against them," state Power Minister Shrikant Sharma told reporters.
No grabbing of public land will be allowed in the name of religion, the minister added.
"The construction of religious places on encroached public land will not be allowed irrespective of the religion," he said.
The task force will work under the overall supervision of the chief secretary while various officials ranging from divisional commissioners, district magistrates and sub divisional magistrates (SDMs) and will look into the complaints, he said.
A portal has also been launched in which land grabbing complaints can be registered, he said.
"Police has been asked to immediately act on land grabbing complaints and if there is laxity, action will be initiated against the concerned SHO," he said.
The decision to free state-owned land from illegal occupants was taken in principle during a recent presentation of the finance department, where the chief minister had asked the officials concerned to set up the task force at the earliest to evict encroachers.
"The chief minister has given a clear directive to start a campaign for vacating properties which have been under illegal occupation after identifying them in a month's time," an official spokesman had said after the presentation.
Adityanath had also ordered department-wise identification of properties through a drive and make them useful for people on a priority basis.
The seriousness of the problem of illegal occupation on government was highlighted last year when two police officers and 22 squatters were killed in a bloody conflict at Jawahar Bagh public park in Mathura in June.
The squatters, an armed group led by Ram Vriksh Yadav, once a follower of Jai Gurudev, had been occupying the site since 2014.
Following a court order on their eviction in 2016, the police tried to forcibly evict them, triggering violence, that claimed the lives of two senior police officers, including a superintendent of police. The police then returned fire, killing several squatters.