Horticulture department officials have found 2,500 trees missing from Mathura’s Jawahar Bagh which was illegally occupied by self-styled cult leader Ram Vriksh Yadav and hundreds of his followers for two years.
The 270-acre park used to have 10,000 trees of various kinds, including ornamental ones, before Ram Vriksh and his brigade pitched tent there. The encroachers cut down the trees for bonfire and cooking during their stay while many other trees were gutted after a fire in the garden following a violent encounter with the police three days ago.
During the ‘occupation, Yadav’s followers ate and sold fruits for more than two years in a Naxal-like fashion before they were finally forced out of the venue on Thursday.
“As many as 2,500 trees and plants are missing from the Jawaharbagh Park,” director, horticulture, SP Joshi told the HT, adding, “We are going to appoint a committee that will visit the spot to estimate the losses, including the one due to missing trees.” He said the new trees would be planted soon in place of the missing ones.
The local officials have, however, pegged the initial losses at Rs 50 lakh. “The encroachers did not allow us to auction the fruits for three years and this alone caused us a loss of around Rs 25 lakh,” district horticulture officer, Mathura, Mukesh Kumar told the HT over phone. He said the encroachers had captured all the machinery, two tubewells and other infrastructure much of which, he said, was ruined in the fire, causing further loss of Rs 25 lakh.
Kumar used to stay in a quarter inside the garden only but the encroachers ordered him to vacate the premise and he had no choice but to follow the dictates. “They were very dangerous people functioning like Naxals,” he said narrating his tale of woes.
On their part, the horticulture department bosses were regularly writing letters to the appropriate channels to get the huge park vacated. They had even lodged 17 FIRs against encroachers who happened to be just too powerful.
“Our officers were regularly writing letters to me and other authorities and I too wrote quite a few letters to the home department, requesting them to get the park vacated since the encroachment was also causing inconvenience to the locals who used to visit the garden,” principal secretary, horticulture, Nivedita Shukla said.