Home Dehradun Questions raised on illegal felling of Deodar trees in Purola

Questions raised on illegal felling of Deodar trees in Purola

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 23 Aug: Illegal felling of forest trees is a very sensitive issue. In a state like Uttarakhand, which claims to have a forest cover of 63 percent, theoretically, and roughly 45.44 percent in actuality, illegal felling of trees in many forest ranges has been an issue but as one that has not been dealt with the seriousness it deserves.  In fact, more often than not, the forest department remains in the news in Uttarakhand for the wrong reasons. In many cases, forests look dense enough from the road but deep inside, the situation is different.

The latest issue is related to large scale felling of Deodar trees in Purola Tons forest division in district Uttarkashi.

Though action has been initiated against eight officers and employees, including the then DLM, Ramkumar, of the Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation (UFDC) in connection with the cutting of green trees of highly valuable deodar, no top officer is presently under the radar of investigation. The Managing Director of the Forest Development Corporation, KM Rao, has sought an immediate report while taking action against the officers and employees concerned in Tehri. In this regard, after the recommendation of Chief Conservator of Forests Anoop Malik, APCCF, Administration, BP Gupta has also sent a letter to the MD of the Forest Corporation for action. It is stated in the letter that, in the departmental investigation, a large number of deodar and kail green trees have been confirmed to have been felled in Sandra Range, Devta Range and Kotigad Range in Purola Tehsil of Tons Forest Division.

In this case, the Forest Development Corporation has been held responsible for illegal felling in Purola.

According to the report, the places where the felling took place are 15 kilometres away from the road and there is no movement of the general public inside the forests. Snow remains there till the end of February. Apart from this, all the illegal felling there was done after the UFDC got the lot, due to which the then DLM of the corporation in Purola, Ramkumar, lot in-charge Narendra Rawat, forest produce guard Mohan Singh, lot in-charge Satyeshwar Lohani, forest produce guard Murkandi Prasad, Section Officer Padam Das, Lot in-charge Ajit Kumar and Forest Produce Guard Vijaypal have been held responsible, and disciplinary action has been taken against them. All these are junior level officers or employees. The bigger question is whether the senior IFS officers who are in charge of the divisions have not failed in their supervisory and monitoring responsibilities, otherwise such a magnitude of tree felling could not have been possible.

MD, Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation, KM Rao has conceded that the letter from the Forest Headquarters has been received, on the basis of which a report has been sought from the Regional Manager, Tehri, and strict action has been directed against all responsible. He claimed that action has also been initiated against the contractor. In the investigation conducted of top Garhwal level officers, it has also been revealed that there was no illegal felling there before the Forest Corporation had been given the ‘lot’. The Forest Corporation did not pick up goods from there for two years after felling. However, taking advantage of the deliberate or casual dereliction of duty during this period, with the connivance of the forest officials, thousands of green Deodar and Kail trees were also felled and then lifted and transported out of the area claiming these to be of the old stock that had not been picked up during the past two years. Obviously, this could not have gone on without the connivance of senior officers. Why it did not come to the notice of seniors in the Forest Corporation that the lot of old trees that had been felled had not been picked up and transported out for a long period of two years?

After the investigative report of Chief, Garhwal, Naresh Kumar, on the instructions of Chief Conservator of Forests Anoop Malik, instructions have been given to take action against the officers and employees concerned. In this, a letter has been written to the government for action against DFO and SDO level officers.

Meanwhile, the Chief Conservator of Forests, Human Resource Development and Personnel Management, has been asked to take action against the Forest Officers of all the three ranges (Sandra, Devta and Kotigad). After the issue of the letter, the Forest Development Corporation has initiated action against junior officers, but no action has been seen so far against senior IFS cadre officers like the DFOs and other middle level officers like the rangers from the Forest Department.

Incidentally, this is not an isolated incident of illegal felling of Deodar trees in the state. Recently, illegal felling of Deodar trees was also reported in Kanasar range of Chakrata Division, but there is no progress in the case. Not even an inquiry committee has been set up to investigate. Here, more than 1,000 green Deodar trees have been reported to have been felled illegally. This case was noticed by a young IFS officer, who reported it, but action is yet to be initiated and, as a result, questions are being raised over apparent lack of interest on the part of the Forest Department. Even the Congress has made it an issue, questioning the intention of the Government.